"Shut it down!"
The Port Huron Statement
Introduction: Agenda for a Generation
We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.
When we were kids the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world; the only one with the atom bomb, the least scarred by modern war, an initiator of the United Nations that we thought would distribute Western influence throughout the world. Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people -- these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men. Many of us began maturing in complacency.
As we grew, however, our comfort was penetrated by events too troubling to dismiss. First, the permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. Second, the enclosing fact of the Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the Bomb, brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract "others" we knew more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time. We might deliberately ignore, or avoid, or fail to feel all other human problems, but not these two, for these were too immediate and crushing in their impact, too challenging in the demand that we as individuals take the responsibility for encounter and resolution. . . .
With nuclear energy whole cities can easily be powered, yet the dominant nation-states seem more likely to unleash destruction greater than that incurred in all wars of human history. Although our own technology is destroying old and creating new forms of social organization, men still tolerate meaningless work and idleness. While two-thirds of mankind suffers undernourishment, our own upper classes revel amidst superfluous abundance. Although world population is expected to double in forty years, the nations still tolerate anarchy as a major principle of international conduct and uncontrolled exploitation governs the sapping of the earth's physical resources. Although mankind desperately needs revolutionary leadership, 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." . . .
Our work is guided by the sense that we may be the last generation in the experiment with living. But we are a minority -- the vast majority of our people regard the temporary equilibriums of our society and world as eternally functional parts. In this is perhaps the outstanding paradox: we ourselves are imbued with urgency, yet the message of our society is that there is no viable alternative to the present. Beneath the reassuring tones of the politicians, beneath the common opinion that America will "muddle through," beneath the stagnation of those who have closed their minds to the future, is the pervading feeling that there simply are no alternatives, that our times have witnessed the exhaustion not only of Utopias, but of any new departures as well. . . .
Some would have us believe that Americans feel contentment amidst prosperity -- but might it not better be called a glaze above deeply felt anxieties about their role in the new world? And if these anxieties produce a developed indifference to human affairs, do they not as well produce a yearning to believe there is an alternative to the present, that something can be done to change circumstances in the school, the workplaces, the bureaucracies, the government? It is to this latter yearning, at once the spark and engine of change, that we direct our present appeal. The search for truly democratic alternatives to the present, and a commitment to social experimentation with them, is a worthy and fulfilling human enterprise, one which moves us and, we hope, others today. On such a basis do we offer this document of our convictions and analysis: as an effort in understanding and changing the conditions of humanity in the late twentieth century, an effort rooted in the ancient, still unfulfilled conception of man attaining determining influence over his circumstances of life.
[The following section, Values, decries the downfall of ideology and idealism, and calls for a new social analysis:]
We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love. In affirming these principles we are aware of countering perhaps the dominant conceptions of man in the twentieth century: that he is a thing to be manipulated, and that he is inherently incapable of directing his own affairs. We oppose the depersonalization that reduces human beings to the status of things -- if anything, the brutalities of the twentieth century teach that means and ends are intimately related, that vague appeals to 'posterity' cannot justify the mutilations of the present. We oppose, too, the doctrine of human incompetence because it rests essentially on the modern fact that men have been "competently" manipulated into incompetence -- we see little reason why men cannot meet with increasing the skill the complexities and responsibilities of their situation, if society is organized not for minority, but for majority, participation in decision-making. . . .
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, especially to go beyond the partial and fragmentary bonds of function that bind men only as worker to worker, employer to employee, teacher to student, American to Russian.
Loneliness, estrangement, isolation describe the vast distance between man and man today. These dominant tendencies cannot be overcome by better personnel management, nor by improved gadgets, but only when a love of man overcomes the idolatrous worship of things by man. As the individualism we affirm is not egoism, the selflessness we affirm is not self-elimination. On the contrary, we believe in generosity of a kind that imprints one's unique individual qualities in the relation to other men, and to all human activity. Further, to dislike isolation is not to favor the abolition of privacy; the latter differs from isolation in that it occurs or is abolished according to individual will.
We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity. As a social system 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 groupings;
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 serve to clarify problems in a way instrumental to their solution; it should provide outlets for the expression of personal grievance and aspiration; opposing views should be organized so as to illuminate choices and facilitate the attainment of goals; 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.
The economic sphere would have as its basis the principles:
that work should involve incentives worthier than money or survival. It should be educative, not stultifying; creative, not mechanical; self-directed, not manipulated; encouraging independence, a respect for others, a sense of dignity and a willingness to accept social responsibility, since it is this experience that has crucial influence on habits, perceptions and individual ethics;
that the economic experience is so personally decisive that the individual must share in its full determination;
that the economy itself is of such social importance that its major resources and means of production should be open to democratic participation and subject to democratic social regulation.
Like the political and economic ones, major social institutions -- cultural, educational, rehabilitative, and others -- should be generally organized with the well-being and dignity of man as the essential measure of success.
In social change or interchange, we find violence to be abhorrent because it requires generally the transformation of the target, be it a human being or a community of people, into a depersonalized object of hate. It is imperative that the means of violence be abolished and the institutions -- local, national, international -- that encourage nonviolence as a condition of conflict be developed.
These are our central values, in skeletal form. It remains vital to understand their denial or attainment in the context of the modern world.
[The section The Students calls for campus activism in the face of academic competition and apathy. "But apathy is not simply an attitude; it is a product of social institutions, and of the structure and organization of higher education itself." In The Society Beyond students are charged with carrying their ideals into the world at large. The section Politics without Publics calls upon Americans to take back control of their political processes. There are also sections on "the remote control economy," analyzing the military-industrial complex; the need to reject the demands of the "warfare state" and nuclear brinkmanship; and a statement supporting the struggles of colonialized peoples. There are two sections on the proper response to Communism and anti-Communism, and another on discrimination: "Our America is still white." A wide variety of issues is covered in What Is Needed? The section Toward American Democracy includes the following headings:]
1. America must abolish its political party stalemate.
Two genuine parties, centered around issues and essential values, demanding allegiance to party principles shall supplant the current system of organized stalemate which is seriously inadequate to a world in flux. . . .
2. Mechanisms of voluntary association must be created through which political information can be imparted and political participation encouraged. . . .
3. Institutions and practices which stifle dissent should be abolished, and the promotion of peaceful dissent should be actively promoted. . . .
4. Corporations must be made publicly responsible.
It is not possible to believe that true democracy can exist where a minority utterly controls enormous wealth and power. . . 5. The allocation of resources must be based on social needs. A truly "public sector" must be established, and its nature debated and planned. . . .
6. America should concentrate on its genuine social priorities: abolish squalor, terminate neglect, and establish and environment for people to live in with dignity and creativeness.
[There are two final sections: Alternatives to Helplessness and The University and Social Change. The final paragraph:]
As students for a democratic society, we are committed to stimulating this kind of social movement, this kind of vision and program in campus and community across the country. If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.
Free Speech Movement:
Statement on Speech and Political Activity, November 1964
1. Regulation of advocacy under the First Amendment. Civil liberties and political freedoms which are constitutionally protected off campus must be equally protected on campus for all persons. Similarly, illegal speech or conduct should receive no greater protection on campus than off campus. The Administration, like any other agency of government, may not regulate the content of speech and political conduct. Regulations governing the time, place and manner of exercising constitutional rights are necessary for the maintenance and proper operation of University functions, but they must not interfere with the opportunity to speak or the content of speech.
In contrast, the University regulations adopted by the Regents on November 20, 1964, and interpreted by the Chancellor, read as follows:
The Regents adopt the policy . . . that certain campus
facilities carefully selected and properly regulated,
may be used by students and staff for planning,
implementing, raising funds or recruiting participants
for lawful off-campus action, not for unlawful off-campus
By making the distinction between advocating "lawful" and "unlawful" action, the Regents propose to regulate the content of speech on campus. It is this distinction that is at the heart of FSM opposition to these regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that advocacy of unlawful conduct cannot constitutionally be punished -- even in the courts -- so long as the advocacy will not clearly and presently cause some substantial evil that is itself illegal.
2. Impropriety of Nonjudicial Forums for Political Activity. Under the November 20 regulations, if the Chancellor accuses a student of advocating an unlawful act, the student and his sponsoring organization are liable to punishment by the University. A student so accused may appear before the Faculty Committee on Student Conduct, whose members are appointed by the Chancellor, and whose opinions are only advisory to him.
The Free Speech Movement considers this to be unconstitutional and unwise for the following two reasons:
(a) Since such a procedure allows the Chancellor to assume the roles of prosecutor, judge and jury simultaneously, the students have no confidence that the final verdict will be fair. In fact, the history of the treatment of civil liberties cases by campus administration reveals an insensitivity to safeguarding such liberties.
Further, the fact that the Administration is peculiarly vulnerable to pressures originating outside the University should remove it from consideration as the proper authority for determining guilt or innocence in the extremely sensitive area of speech, assembly and protest within the First Amendment. It must be emphasized that the current crisis has not developed in a vacuum. These rules work a grave hardship on the civil rights movement in Northern California. Organizations in this movement rely heavily on negotiations, demonstrations, picketing and other legal tactics. It is true however that in order to focus attention on a serious injustice and to bring pressure to bear for its correction, civil rights workers sometimes employ tactics which result in violation of law. Without passing on the propriety of such acts, the Free Speech Movement insists that the question whether their advocacy is legal or illegal must be left to the courts, which are institutionally independent of the shifting pressures of the community. Moreover, the standard that the Chancellor is free to apply is only one of "responsibility" of the act of advocacy for the act advocated, which is far more inclusive and vague than the "clear and present danger" test. Hence, guilt is likely to be founded upon much less substantial and compelling grounds than would be necessary to obtain conviction for illegal advocacy in a court of law. Students are convinced that the regulations providing for such a hearing are the direct result of pressure generated by the civil rights movement in the surrounding community and enable the Administration to respond to such pressures by disciplining student civil rights workers.
(b) Even if complete mutual trust existed between the Administration and student body, and even if the University attempted to observe the requirements of due process, it would be impossible for it to provide all of the safeguards of our judicial system, or otherwise to fulfill the functions of a court. The points in controversy, relating to the degree of responsibility of an act of advocacy for an act advocated, are of such a delicate and complex nature that even the courts have not built up wholly adequate precedents. Certainly, then, a nonjudicial body should be considered incompetent in this area.
On the other hand, the students' position that the courts alone have jurisdiction does not in any way imply the creation of a haven for illegal activity on the campus. On the contrary, it involves just the opposite of this -- the removal of any special protection the University may now afford, as well as any extra-legal punishment. The student becomes subject to the same process of trial and punishment for illegal acts that all other citizens must accept.
3. On-Campus Regulation of the Form of Free Expression. The Free Speech Movement recognizes the necessity for regulations insuring that political activity and speech do not interfere with the normal educational functions of the University. Rallies must not be held so as to disturb classes, block traffic, damage University property, conflict with other scheduled public meetings or rallies, etc. Such regulation is purely formal; no discretion to regulate the content of speech can constitutionally be permitted the controlling authority. Furthermore, the regulations must be carefully tailored to protect or promote these State interests without unduly burdening the opportunity to speak, hear, engage in political activity on the campus.
At the present time, University regulations governing the form of expression on the campus are promulgated by the Administration, while other segments of the University community are limited to a purely advisory capacity. It is the general position of the Free Speech Movement that those persons and organizations subject to regulations must have a part in their final enactment. It is especially important as a safeguard against abuse or factual error that students share the responsibility for promulgations over the form of speech. The Administration has demonstrated many times its propensity to plead the necessity to regulate form as an excuse for regulating content. For example the Administration has, until recently, designated a place removed from the area of normal traffic as the "Hyde Park area," thus seriously hampering access to listeners. As the local ACLU has pointed out:
A denial of certain avenues of such access (such as
the open areas of the campus) with the claim that
there are others, which though perhaps not as
desirable are nonetheless available, will not avoid
violation of the First Amendment unless the government
entity . . . can demonstrate that there are no
available alternative means of achieving its purpose,
and that the purposes in question are so necessary as
to be, in the language of the Court, "compelling."
Students have thus regarded the designation of such an area as an unreasonable and unconstitutional restriction and refused to acceded to it.
Because of such past experience, and because of the important principle of democratic self-government involved, the Free Speech Movement has taken the position that final regulation of the form of exercise of speech should be by a tripartite committee consisting of representatives chosen independently by the students, faculty, and administration.
Why We Strike
This statement was part of a pamphlet issued by the student strike committee at Columbia University, in May 1968.
What is the political justification for not disciplining the demonstrators?
There are two basic reason why the demonstrators should not be punished. First, they took the only actions they could have to successfully win just demands. Second, the authority that promulgated the laws that the demonstrators are accused of violating -- the Columbia administration -- is totally illegitimate and doesn't have the right to discipline -- or pass laws providing for the disciplining of -- anyone.
The justice of the demonstrators' goals has been admitted by nearly everyone. Some people object to the tactics we use; they think we should have employed the "legitimate channels" to achieve our demands. We ask these people: Where were you earlier this year when 400 students marched peacefully into Low Library to present Grayson Kirk a letter asking for disaffiliation with IDA? The official response to this letter was, "We cannot answer because there was no return address." Where was the legitimate means for discussion when SDS challenged Kirk to debate on IDA and there was no answer at all? Where were you when peaceful demonstrations were held at the gym site and the university pressed charges against a minister for trespassing? And where were you when SDS presented a petition on IDA with 1,700 signatures to the administration and their response was to put the six on disciplinary probation for marching into their building? We ask that you ask yourself if the reason you now care about our demands is because we are using the very tactics we are at this time.
In short, we have used the "legitimate channels." The administration apparently considered them less legitimate than we did, for they never spent a minute paying any attention to them. Lack of administration response to these methods over a long period of time, plus their lack of response to traditional tactics of civil disobedience, convinced us that the tactics we have used over the past two weeks were the only way we could achieve our just demands.
Strict civil libertarians argue that those who commit civil disobedience must suffer the legal consequences even if their cause is just. But we say people should not be disciplined for doing what is necessary to achieve what is right.
We also point to the basic illegitimacy of the Columbia administration. As the strikers said in their policy statement of April 28,
We . . . believe in the right of all people to participate
in the decisions that affect their lives. An institution
is legitimate only if it is a structure for the exercise of
this collective right. The people who are affected by an
illegitimate institution have the right to change it
Columbia University has been governed undemocratically.
An administration responsible only to the Trustees has
made decisions that deeply affect students, faculty, and
the community. It has expropriated a neighborhood park
to build a gym. It has participated, through IDA, in the
suppression of self-determination throughout the world.
It has formulated rules and disciplined students
arbitrarily and for the purpose of suppressing justified
protest. The actions of the administration in the present
crisis have exposed it to students and faculty as the
antidemocratic and irresponsible body it has always been.
Our goal is to create a functioning participatory
democracy to replace the repressive rule of the
administration and Trustees of this university. The
acceptance of amnesty by the administration is a
fundamental part of this transition because it establishes
the illegitimacy of the existing structure. The granting
of amnesty is the formal establishment of a new order --
the right and power of all people affected by the
university not to be judged by illegitimate authority.
For students who took the only actions possible to successfully achieve necessary and just demands to be disciplined for the violation of rules set up by a totally discredited and illegitimate authority would be a travesty.
SDS: The Last Hurrah
[The Students for a Democratic Society -- and in a larger sense, the student protest movement of the Sixties -- collapsed at a disastrous convention in Chicago in June, 1969. This is an excerpt from a report by an undercover federal agent. The "naughty words" blanked out in the original have been restored.]
The convention started on Saturday, June 18, 1969. It began five hours late. That morning South Wabash Avenue was crowded with an assortment of delegates, newspaper men, and plainclothesmen.
Reporters were trying to interview students on the sidewalk. Others joined the lines waiting to file past registration tables where, for a $5.00 fee, delegates were issued blue identification cards. Upon payment of the $5.00 entrance fee each person admitted to the coliseum was issued an index card on which he was asked to sign his name. The card was used during the following days of the convention as a check on the identity of the delegates.
Inside the building a security detachment searched everyone. The security men wore green arm bands and examined wallets and purses. Next each delegate was patted down. At the opening of the convention Jeff Gordon, a prominent Weatherman, rose on the floor to protest the thoroughness of the searches being made. He complained that, "women's breasts are being felt and their legs are being felt close to their vaginas." After Gordon's complaint women were added to the security detachment for purposes of searching female delegates.
The hall was relatively dark and extremely noisy. Voices echoed as they customarily do in large buildings. This acoustical fact became important later when loud chanting began. The seating in the Coliseum was temporary. The podium was large and guarded on all sides except the front by a railing. Along the wall, the various factions had set up tables where their literature was available. People filed in slowly because of the registration process. As they arrived they stood about the hall in small discussion groups.
The political ideologies of the delegates was apparent from their grooming. Delegates who espoused the thinking of the Progressive Labor Party believed in conventional grooming, i.e. short haircuts and shaves. Members of the Revolutionary Youth Movement preferred long hair and flowing moustaches. Observers reported that the room seemed fairly closely divided between Revolutionary Youth Movement and Progressive Labor Party elements.
A midwestern SDS member named Timothy McCarthy was the permanent chairman. McCarthy had no gavel. Instead, he used a rock to rap for order.
The convention began with an introduction of three national officers elected in the previous year's convention held at Michigan State University. Bernardine Dohrn, of Chicago, was introduced as the Interorganizational Secretary, Michael Klonsky, of California, was the National Secretary, Allen Young was the National Press Secretary, and Fred Gordon was the National Education Secretary.
At the 1968 SDS convention at Michigan State, [Mark] Rudd had arrived fresh from his recent "conquest" at Columbia University. Reportedly he expected to be elected National Secretary at that convention. Instead, he was spurned as the SDS elected Michael Klonsky as the National Secretary. Klonsky's views were not on a parallel with Rudd's. The only National officer elected at the 1968 convention who was akin to Rudd was Bernardine Dohrn a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. At the 1968 convention Rudd was rejected by many as a "flabby thinker." Many expressed the view that his actions were self-serving and that he was a creation of the "Capitalist Press."
A year later, after his rejection, Rudd addressed 800 members of the Revolutionary Youth Movement. The group had gathered in the First Congregational Church of Chicago. Rudd admitted that, "I am a press-created leader. The media have made me a symbol of the New Left. While I don't approve, the movement needs leadership and symbols. My name exists as a symbol and at this time I think that's a good thing." On the basis of this talk, Rudd became the standard bearer of the Revolutionary Youth Movement, overwhelmingly defeating Robert Avakian, an expert on Mao Tse Tung and the leader of California's Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU). As a result of his defeat, Avakian joined with several dissident SDS members from Chicago and established Revolutionary Youth Movement II (RYM II). Rudd, as the winner, became the leader of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM I). As the convention opened divisions had already begun.
(A resolution to bar reporters was proposed by the RYM was debated and passed.)
. . . The maneuvering that followed was similar to that seen at major political party conventions. Small irrelevant issues were used as tests of strength. Positions were adopted not for ideological reasons but to gain delegates. Floor leaders discussed issues, led caucuses, engaged in "arm twisting" and made promises. It was apparent that the convention was groping for a single popular issue that would capture the fancy of uncommitted delegates.
Perhaps a quarter of the delegates were women. On the evening of the first night of the convention both the RYM movements and the Worker-Student Alliance faction hit upon the same stratagem designed to obtain the votes of uncommitted delegates.
A pamphlet was distributed with the heading, "The fight for women's liberation is basic to defeating Imperialism!" In it, eight New York delegates, mostly women, argued that "females, were exploited, and had been since an 1824 strike in Pawtucket, Rhode Island." The pamphlet claimed that black women were particularly exploited: "first as workers, second as black people, and third as women." The statement went on to state that, "In a recent leaflet put out by the Revolutionary Student Union in Berkeley around People's Park we find a picture." The pamphlet reproduced an illustration of a full-breasted girl lifting a sweater toward her head. The girl wore no brassiere. The caption read, "Today we relax."
Both sides agreed that this "male chauvinism" was intolerable. It was thought that as the second day began this issue would draw the convention toward cohesiveness.
On the morning of the second day RYM I caucused on the Coliseum balcony. Rudd felt more assured of a victory. His group was now calling itself the Weatherman [sic].
Klonsky and Carl Davidson, a reporter for the radical weekly Guardian were suggesting that the American blacks were about to enter "a new democratic stage." It was suggested that Negro riots had come to an end and that the blacks were about to join with the bourgeoisie and the press for progress within the American legal structure. This view was applauded reluctantly by the Labor Committee and enthusiastically by the Independent Socialist Clubs.
Addressing himself to this proposition, Rudd said, "Well, sure. But the working class consists of everyone who doesn't own the means of production and the blacks sure as shit don't own them. So we can't talk about a new democratic stage for the blacks. They have to be liberated by a socialist revolution, the way Vietnam should be liberated and the way China was liberated."
"We can't go irresponsible and tell the blacks that there won't be a new stage of Democratic progress," Davidson said.
"We sure as hell can," Rudd said. "We can talk to black people and give them the understanding our revolutionary Marxism gives us, we're revolutionaries."
Rudd carried the point. The Revolutionary Youth Movement would continue to preach revolution to blacks.
For the next two days the Worker-Student Alliance under Jeff Gordon and John Pennington, RYM I under Rudd and Dohrn, and RYM II under Klonsky and Avakian vied for leadership of the convention. The Worker-Student Alliance continued to win test votes, but narrowly. Gordon and Pennington were concerned over the slippage of their majority. The feminist issue was now useless. A new issue began to develop. The slogan uttered throughout the convention hall was, "raise the level of struggle." This phrase, in no uncertain terms, suggested a more violent confrontation with the authorities and the "establishment." On Thursday and Friday RYM leaders began to marshal Negro and Puerto Rican delegates.
This was a prelude to their plan to "get" the "racist" Worker-Student Alliance.
A tall Puerto Rican, wearing a purple beret took the podium. "All people should have the right to self-determination," he said. The Puerto Rican was prominent in a gang called the Young Lords. He criticized the Worker-Student Alliance for not recognizing Puerto Ricans as a nation. He then gave a lengthy recitation on the history of Puerto Rico.
At the close of his dissertion [sic], he told the convention that, "I want you to meet my friend Corky."
"Corky," a Mexican-American wore a brown beret. "Remember the Western United States was stolen from Mexico," he said. "We need self-determination." He read an extended list of American communities which he claimed have self-determination.
The next speaker was Chaka Walls, a leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party.
"Blacks have the right to self-determination," he shouted. Immediately the hall rang with cheers. "I'm gonna tell you motherfuckers, blacks have a right to choose. I have seen a lot of things around here I don't like. People says [sic] blacks don't have a right to choose as blacks. You motherfuckers better get yourselves together."
Walls next turned to the feminists [sic] issue. "About all this male chauvinism," he said. "I'm for penis power myself."
"Revolutionary women have a lot to contribute," Walls said. "I'm glad to see they're [sic] enough women around here for all the revolution. The way the women contribute is by getting laid."
RYM strategy was fast becoming a disaster. In the back of the hall WSA people chanted, "Fight male chauvinism. Fight male chauvinism."
But Walls was out of control. "Superman," he shouted, "was a punk. He never even tried to fuck Lois Lane."
The chant swelled. Walls could not continue as the din increased. Momentarily Jewell Cook, another Panther, replaced Walls at the microphone and pleaded for quiet. "The Worker-Student Alliance," he said, "comes here and makes a lot of noise, but they're not leading any fights on campuses." A loud cheer arose from members of the Revolutionary Youth Movement. "But," Cook said, "you got to know I'm with my brother. I'm for penis power myself. The position of women in the movement * * *." [asterisks in the original]
The chant against male chauvinism grew louder as the delegates guessed what was coming.
"The position of women," roared Cook, "should be prone." (It is assumed that Cook meant "supine.")
With this utterance the RYM strategy virtually collapsed. The Black Panther attempts at humor were making a shambles of RYM's plan to capture the convention. One girl got up and said that she refused to have women's liberation used as a political football.
After some deliberation on what had happened both RYM factions walked out. RYM leaders began to bicker among themselves. Bernardine Dohrn insisted that black liberation could only come about through a socialist revolution. Klonsky and Avakian thought that each could happen separately. Despite this disagreement the two RYM factions were able to coalesce long enough to urge Jul [sic: Jewell] Cook to make a return engagement. At 7:00 p.m. chairman McCarthy rushed to the microphone and shouted, "The Panthers have asked to speak again and here they are."
This time Cook delivered a written speech. "The Panthers and the Young Lords and the Brown Berets have gotten together," he began, "and adopted a common position. The Progressive Labor-Worker-Student Alliance faction is acting like pigs. They are holding back black and brown people's struggle for self-determination. Immediately after the convention chicken shit P.L. is going to change its position because P.L. is chicken shit."
The WSA delegates sat silently as Cook continued. "P.L. acts like cops. They act like counterrevolutionaries. P.L. is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky." A few shouts of protest arose. "Chairman Mao supports liberation for all oppressed people."
With this WSA began to chant. "Read Mao, read Mao, read Mao."
"P.L. is counterrevolutionary," Cook yelled.
The WSA faction changed its chant to, "Bastard, bastard, bastard!"
Several Black Panthers walked toward the Progressive Labor Party's literature table on the left side of the hall. As the Panthers stood glaring at those behind the table, Jeff Gordon and John Pennington dispatched a group of WSA members who soon surrounded the angry Panthers. The chants continued and soon grew deafening.
Michael Klonsky walked to the microphone and tried to speak. The WSA roared, "Rebuttal, rebuttal." Klonsky glared at the chanters. Ignoring him, Jeff Gordon rose and, surrounded by a dozen WSA delegates, strode to the microphone. His cadre wore red and white buttons on their left shoulders, the insignia of the new WSA security force.
Speaking slowly, Gordon declared, "the Progressive Labor Party will not be intimidated out of SDS." Roaring applause followed. "We support national liberation all over the world. We support the Black Panther Party. When we criticize the Panthers it's in a comradely and constructive fashion. We support self-determination for all the black people in the U.S." As Gordon stepped down the hall resounded to the chant, "fight racism. Fight racism." The leadership of both RYM factions gathered at the rear of the podium. They had lost control of both the agenda and the delegates.
At 9:45 p.m. Rudd walked to the microphone. "If we go on this way," he said, "we will have fights, not political discussion. I suggest we recess for an hour. Frankly I am suggesting this not only to let the situation cool, we want this caucus to decide what to do."
On the platform behind him, RYM leaders argued Rudd's proposal. Bernardine Dohrn was talking heatedly with Klonsky, who had a pacifying hand on one of hers. Suddenly Dohrn spun away and marched to the microphone.
"Some of us are going to have to decide," she shouted, "whether our principles allow us to stay in the same organization with people who deny the right of self-determination to the oppressed. Anyone who would like a discussion on that, follow me into the next room." She strutted off the podium to a corridor on the left which opened to a large empty room. Rudd moved quickly behind Dohrn. Slowly the rest of the RYM hierarchy followed. Around the room people began to rise and walk out.
The WSA organization started chants. They screamed for the delegates to sit down. Some picked up chairs and banged them against the floor. Others chanted, "Stay and fight." Despite the pleading, at least a third of the people walked out after Bernardine Dohrn. It is suggested that the SDS has never been a unified organization since.
The RYM faction had devised their strategy at the end of the next day. The WSA met, under a new chairman, and broke itself into workshops. Groups moved to their chairs and gathered facing one another, and discussed racism, imperialism, and the labor movement. They continued to insist that blacks were a part of the oppressed proletarian class.
At approximately 11:00 p.m. Jared Israel of the Worker-Student Alliance concluded a private meeting with Michael Klonsky. He returned to the main floor and asked for attention. "Look" he shouted, "I have information that the RYM people are finally coming back here. When they do, please don't hiss or chant. All we need is for a fight. Then the Chicago pigs will bust us all."
It was subsequently learned that Israel was urging docility because Klonsky and Dohrn had urged it upon him. Docility was critical to the careful plan which had been devised by the RYM delegates.
A file of RYM women left the closed room. A dozen marched through the passageway into the main hall and formed a line about the podium. The girls stood shoulder to shoulder saying nothing. The podium itself was unoccupied.
Next a contingent of men wearing green arm bands entered the hall. They encircled the women in two columns.
A double file of delegates followed. Ten Black Panthers were in the lead. The file marched to a point in front of the hall, split into two columns and strung themselves out until the WSA was completely encircled.
It was apparent that the WSA had been duped by the RYM factions. Their disarrayed people were sprawled about in workshops and were completely surrounded. Presently the RYM elite marched unchallenged to the podium.
Bernardine Dohrn stepped forward.
"In the last 24 hours" she cried, "we in the next room have been discussing principles. We support the national liberation struggles of the Vietnamese, the American Blacks and all other colonials. We support all who take up gun [sic] against U.S. imperialism. We support the governments of China, Albania, North Viet Nam and North Korea. We support Women's Liberation."
Backed by the security guard wearing the green arm bands Dohrn continued. "All members of the Progressive Labor Party-Worker-Student Alliance and all who do not support these principles are objective racists and counterrevolutionaries. They are no longer members of SDS."
Too late, the Worker-Student Alliance began to chant. Pointing fingers at the podium in rhythm, the WSA delegates cried, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" But Bernardine Dohrn's group, having declared itself the winner, was walking out. With sheer force and with trickery, the minority had ironically read the majority out of the SDS.
Later that night, the RYM delegates secured the files and the mailing lists and the names of contributors in the national office at 1608 West Madison Street. The next day, while the WSA was overwhelmingly electing John Pennington, the RYM group elected Mark Rudd.
As a result of Rudd's election, RYM II formally divided with RYM I. The division was lead [sic] by Klonsky, Avakian and Davidson. The present national officers of SDS are all members of RYM I. . . .
"You Don't Need a Weatherman
to Know Which Way the Wind Blows"
Revolutionary Youth Movement, 1969
People ask, what is the nature of the revolution that we talk about? Who will it be made by, and for, and what are its goals and strategy?
The overriding consideration in answering these questions is that the main struggle going on in the world today is between U.S. imperialism and the national liberation struggles against it. . . .
So the very first question people in this country must ask in considering the question of revolution is where they stand in relation to the United States as an oppressor nation, and where they stand in relation to the masses of people throughout the world whom U.S. imperialism is oppressing.
The primary task of revolutionary struggle is to solve this principal contradiction on the side of the people of the world. It is the oppressed peoples of the world who have created the wealth of this empire and it is to them that it belongs; the goal of the revolutionary struggle must be the control and use of this wealth in the interests of the oppressed peoples of the world. . . .
The goals is the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism. Winning state power in the U.S. will occur as a result of the military forces of the U.S. overextending themselves around the world and being defeated piecemeal; struggle within the U.S. will be a vital part of this process, but when the revolution triumphs in the U.S. it will have been made by the people of the whole world. . . .
The struggle of black people -- as a colony -- is for self-determination, freedom, and liberation from U.S. imperialism. Because blacks have been oppressed and held in an inferior social position as a people, they have a right to decide, organize and act on their common destiny as a people apart from white interference. Black self-determination does not simply apply to determination of their collective political destiny at some future time. It is directly tied to the fact that because all blacks experience oppression in a form that no whites do, no whites are in a position to fully understand and test from their own practice the real situation black people face and the necessary response to it. This is why it is necessary for black people to organize separately and determine their actions separately at each stage of the struggle.
It is necessary to defeat both racist tendencies: (1) that blacks shouldn't go ahead with making the revolution, and (2) that blacks should go ahead alone with making it. The only third path is to build a white movement which will support the blacks in moving as fast as they have to and are able to, and still itself keep up with that black movement enough so that white revolutionaries share the cost and the blacks don't have to do the whole thing alone. Any white who does not follow this third path is objectively following one of the other two (or both) and is objectively racist.
. . . We have pointed to the vanguard nature of the black struggle in this country as part of the international struggle against American imperialism, and the impossibility of anything but an international strategy for winning. Any attempt to put forth a strategy which, despite internationalist rhetoric, is incorrect. The Vietnamese (and the Uruguayans and the Rhodesians) and the blacks and Third World peoples in this country will continue to set the terms for class struggle in America.
Why a Revolutionary Youth Movement?
In general, young people have less stake in a society (no family, fewer debts, etc.), are more open to new ideas (they have not been brainwashed for so long or so well), and are therefore more able and willing to move in a revolutionary direction. Specifically in America, young people have grown up experiencing the crises in imperialism. They have grown up along with a developing black liberation movement, with the liberation of Cuba, the fights for independence in Africa, and the war in Vietnam. Older people grew up during the fight against Fascism, during the cold war, the smashing of the trade unions, McCarthy, and a period during which real wages consistently rose -- since 1965 disposable real income has decreased slightly, particularly in urban areas where inflation and increased taxation have bitten heavily into wages. This crisis in imperialism affects all parts of the society. America has had to militarize to protect and expand its empire; hence the high draft calls and the creation of a standing army of three and a half million, an army which still has been unable to win in Vietnam. Further, the huge defense expenditures -- required for the defense of the empire and at the same time a way of making increased profits for the defense industries -- have gone hand in hand with the urban crisis around welfare, the hospitals, the schools, housing, air, and water pollution. The state cannot provide the services it has been forced to assume responsibility for, and needs to increase the taxes and to pay its growing debts while it cuts services and uses the pigs to repress protest.
In all of this, it is not that life in America is toughest for youth or that they are the most oppressed. Rather, it is that young people are hurt directly -- and severely -- by imperialism. And, in being less tightly tied to the system, they are more "pushed" to join the black liberation struggle against U.S. imperialism. Among young people there is less of a material base for racism -- they have no seniority, have not spent 20 years securing a skilled job (the white monopoly of which is increasingly challenged by the black liberation movement), and aren't just about to pay off a 25-year mortgage on a house which is valuable because it's located in a white neighborhood. . . .
. . . Agitational demands for impossible, but reasonable, reforms are a good way to make a revolutionary point. The demand for open admissions by asserting the alternative to the present (school) system exposes its fundamental nature -- that it is racist, class-based, and closed -- pointing to the only possible solution to the present situation: "Shut it down!" The impossibility of real open admissions -- all black and brown people admitted, no flunk-out, full scholarship -- under present conditions is the best reason (that the schools show no possibility for real reform) to shut the schools down. . . .
One way to make clear the nature of the system and our tasks working off of separate struggles is to tie them together with each other; to show that we're one "multi-issue" movement, not an alliance of high school and college students, or students and GI's, or youth and workers, or students and the black community. The way to do this is to build organic regional or subregional and city-wide movements, by regularly bringing people in one institution or area to fights going on on other fronts.
This works on two levels. Within a neighborhood, by bringing kids to different fights, and relating these fights to each other -- high school stuff, colleges, housing, welfare, shops -- we begin to build one neighborhood-based multi-issue movement off of them. Besides actions and demonstrations, we also pull different people together in day-to-day film showings, rallies, for speakers and study groups, etc. On a second level, we combine neighborhood "bases" into a city-wide or region-wide movement by doing the same kind of thing; concentrating our forces at whatever important struggles are going on and building more ongoing interrelationships off of that. . . .
Three principles underlie this multi-issue, "cross-institutional" movement, on the neighborhood and city-wide levels, as to why it creates greater revolutionary consciousness and active participation in the revolution:
(1) Mixing different issues, struggles and groups demonstrates our analysis to people in a material way. We claim there is one system and so all these different problems have the same solution, revolution. If they are the same struggle in the end, we should make that clear from the beginning. On this basis we must aggressively smash the notion that there can be outside agitators on a question pertaining to the imperialists.
(2) "Relating to Motion": the struggle activity, the action, of the movement demonstrates our existence and strength to people in a material way. Seeing it happen, people give it more weight in their thinking. For the participants, involvement in struggle is the best education about the movement, the enemy and the class struggle. In a neighborhood or whole city the existence of some struggle is a catalyst for other struggles -- it pushes people to see the movement as more important and urgent, and as an example and precedent makes it easier for them to follow. If the participants in a struggle are based in different institutions or parts of the city, these effects are multiplied. Varied participation helps the movement be seen as political (wholly subversive) rather than as separate grievance fights. As people in one section of the movement fight beside and identify closer with other sections, the mutual catalytic effect of their struggles will be greater.
(3) We must build a movement oriented toward power. Revolution is a power struggle, and we must develop that understanding among people from the beginning. Pooling our resources area-wide and city-wide really does increase our power in particular fights, as well as push a mutual-aid-in-struggle consciousness.
The RYM and the Pigs
A major focus in our neighborhood and city-wide work is the pigs, because they tie together the various struggles around the state as the enemy, and thus point to the need for a movement oriented toward the power to defeat it. . . .
Thus the pigs are ultimately the glue -- the necessity -- that holds the neighborhood-based and city-wide movement together; all of our concrete needs lead to pushing the pigs to the fore as a political focus:
(1) Making institutionally oriented reform struggles deal with state power, by pushing our struggle till either winning or getting pigged.
(2) Using the city-wide interrelation of fights to raise the level of struggle and further large-scale anti-pig movement-power consciousness.
(3) Developing spontaneous anti-pig consciousness in our neighborhoods to an understanding of imperialism, class struggle and the state.
(4) And using the city-wide movement as a platform for reinforcing and extending this politicization work, like by talking about getting together a city-wide neighborhood-based mutual-aid anti-pig self-defense network.
All of this can be done through city-wide agitation and propaganda and picking certain issues -- to have as the central regional focus for the whole movement.
Repression and Revolution
As institutional fights and anti-pig self-defense off of them intensify, so will the ruling class's repression. Their escalation of repression will inevitably continue according to how threatening the movement is to their power. Our task is not to avoid or end repression; that can always be done by pulling back, so we're not dangerous enough to require crushing. Sometimes it is correct to do that as a tactical retreat, to survive to fight again.
The Need for a Revolutionary Party
The RYM must also lead to the effective organization needed to survive and to create another battlefield of the revolution. A revolution is a war; when the movement in this country can defend itself militarily against total repression it will be aprt of the revolutionary war.
This will require a cadre organization, effective secrecy, self-reliance among the cadres, and an integrated relationship with the active mass-based movement. To win a war with an enemy as highly organized and centralized as the imperialists will require a (clandestine) organization of revolutionaries, having also a unified "general staff"; that is, combined at some point with discipline under one centralized leadership. Because war is political, political tasks -- the international communist revolution -- must guide it.
There are two kinds of tasks for us.
One is the organization of revolutionary collectives within the movement. Our theory must come from practice, but it can't be developed in isolation. Only a collective pooling of our experiences can develop a thorough understanding of the complex conditions in this country.
The most important task for us toward making the revolution, and the work our collectives should engage in, is the creation of a mass revolutionary movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party will be impossible.