CHAPTER TWO: Strike! Komm-unist Conspiracy, the Birth of the Labor Committee and Weatherman, the Power of Pie, Contingency A, and More Untold Tales from Columbia
Pdf file downloadable here
NEW YORK: APRILJUNE 1968
The views of the Labor Committee are an interesting footnote to the strike. It was one of their leaders who, on the night of April 22, the eve of the uprising, presented the program for the next day's offensive; it was another of its leaders who made the decision on April 24 to stay in Low Library . . . when most others in SDS, including Rudd, temporarily fled.
Immanuel Wallerstein and Paul Starr (eds), The University Crisis Reader (New York, Random House, 1971), 162.
On 8 February 1967 Tony Papert and John Jacobs ("JJ") along with 16 other radical Columbia students visited the Columbia College office in Dodge Hall then being used by visiting CIA recruiters.1 Little more than two years later Jacobs co-authored the Weatherman founding document You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, while Papert became a top leader of the SDS Labor Committees. But why were they both at the temporary CIA recruitment office? From Kirkpatrick Sale's book SDS: "When the CIA recruiters returned again in February 1967, the [SDS] chapter voted officially not to interrupt them, sensing that such a move was premature for the still-docile student body; and when eighteen students, many of them SDS members including Tony Papert, and John Jacobs, known as "JJ," a onetime PLer turned free-lance radical went and sat-in at the CIA office anyway, SDS leaders officially disavowed any connections.2 [Italics in the original]
TONY AND JJ
Tony Papert grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, the son of a lawyer. He first went to Princeton intent on studying Chinese, but he later switched to Columbia, where he was pre-med.3 In 1967 he was a senior at Columbia. The university was so angry at him for organizing the CIA sit-in that he just barely managed to graduate. Most important of all, Papert was a rising star in the pro-Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PLP) and he ran PL's Columbia chapter. In 1967 Papert first heard of LaRouche from another Columbia friend who knew Papert from Long Island's Great Neck South High School.4 LaRouche's FUNY classes had a remarkably high intellectual content, especially compared to the level of Marxist ideas inside PL, an organization wedded to classic "dialectical materialist" views straight from Engels' Anti-Dόhring.
Papert was particularly intrigued by LaRouche's "Luxemburgist" approach to mass organizing. PL strongly denounced the "student syndicalists" inside SDS who wished to organize students separately. PL instead proposed that students should get summer jobs in factories. In contrast to both views, LaRouche's "cross-class organizing" proposals called for the creation of embryonic "mini-Soviets." Thus the Transit Campaign with its resistance to fare hikes could potentially unite welfare mothers, transit workers, and students into a broader organization which, by its very composition, would begin to break down more parochial (or in Labor Committee jargon "heteronomic") ways of thinking.5 Fresh from LaRouche's class, Papert returned to PL eager to change the organization's approach, only to find his ideas rejected by PL's top leadership. Not surprisingly, Papert now began having deeper doubts about PL. As he later recalled, one day he was walking across the Columbia campus with copies of PL's newspaper, Challenge. He glanced down at the papers and suddenly thought, "This is garbage." Embarrassed, he threw the entire bundle of papers into a trash bin.
As for JJ, he came from parents who had been active in the CPUSA. As a high school student, he joined PL. Jacobs, however, quit PL around the same time it liquidated its radical student front organization, the May 2 Movement (M-2-M). When Jacobs entered Columbia as a freshman in 1966, he had become an independent radical of sorts with no well-defined outside affiliations. Columbia's SDS chapter at the time was dominated by the "Praxis" or "new working class" faction, which emphasized "base building" and creating a broad consensus, as opposed to confrontation. The Praxis leadership viewed Papert's PL wing of SDS as archaic, stupid, and trapped in the past. Yet Jacobs grew to despise "Praxis" for a different reason. He thought they were all talk and little action.
8 FEBRUARY 1967
In April 1968 there was plenty of action on Columbia's campus. Papert, in particular, attained special status when he "held" the Low Library building at one point with only a handful of other students after Mark Rudd bailed out of Low to avoid getting arrested for what looked like a lost cause. Two other Labor Committee members who would play notable roles in the 1968 crisis were undergraduate Steve Komm, who a few weeks earlier had lost his bid to lead Columbia SDS to Rudd by a vote of 38 to 33, and an anthropology student named Bob Dillon, who helped create the Columbia Summer Liberation School. Another well-known Columbia radical named Paul Rockwell operated as a key Labor Committee ally during the strike.
During the crisis, Mark Rudd turned to both Tony Papert and JJ for guidance. To fully understand why, we have to go back one year. In 1967, the newly-minted New Left radical Rudd had been ensconced in the "Praxis" faction that dominated Columbia SDS and despised the PL-SDS "Stalinists" on campus. Yet it was Papert's PL-SDS group that helped lead the February 1967 Dodge Hall takeover against CIA recruitment while "Praxis" officially distanced itself from the action just as it would later distance itself from the initial seizures of buildings in 1968, provoking Rudd to temporarily resign from his position as head of Columbia SDS. Against the SDS majority faction, the proto-Labor Committee network at Columbia actively planned the 8 February 1967 anti-CIA action. Besides Papert, Bob Dillon, Ed Spannaus, Paul Gallagher, and Dick Sober all participated in the 1967 sit-in. Thus when 1968 conflict happened, "Praxis" as the majority leadership on campus simply discredited itself. Political influence (at least among the white students) now shifted to people like JJ (who by then had dropped out of Columbia) and his close friend Mark Rudd on the one hand and the Papert PL/pre-Labor Committee group on the other. Politically sidelined, "Praxis" fumed over its growing loss of influence, especially after the police assaults on students dramatically heightened the sense of crisis on campus. During this time, Tony Paper more acted as a shadowy eminence grise and avoided publicity. While Mark Rudd played both to the crowd as well as to the news cameras to the delight of the anti-PL SDS National Office grouping that later would become Weatherman, Papert plotted future organizing on a more strategic as well as tactical level with support from his core Columbia PL cadre on the one hand and the West Village CIPA/LaRouche network on the other. Out of this ferment, the SDS Labor Committee now emerged as a separate faction inside SDS in particular and the New Left in general.
During the 1967 sit-in, the future factions that would split SDS just two years later all sat together on the floor of a room in Dodge Hall. JJ was a member of the dissident Anti-Imperialist League (ALL) splinter from the M-2-M faction that refused to liquidate M-2-M into the newly-formed Progressive Labor Party (which had until then been known as the Progressive Labor Movement). Papert ran PL's Columbia network but he was already moving towards LaRouche thanks to the influence of LaRouche's FUNY classes as well as his general sense that PL was turning into a hopeless sect. In that sense, both Papert and JJ shared similar doubts about PL. Finally, there was Roger Taus, another Dodge Hall protester, who remained in Columbia PL after Papert was expelled from the organization in the early summer of 1968. All of them had some involvement with FUNY as it had largely been founded by PL cadre involved in M-2-M. Thus it was not at all surprising that people like Papert, Dillon, and Spannaus (all either PL members or sympathizers) would come across "Lyn Marcus" given their own as well as FUNY's PL lineage.
PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
What follows is most certainly not an attempt to retell the story of Columbia, a story that is unbelievably complex and multi-faceted.6 Nor is it an effort either to validate or refute the Labor Committee interpretation of what happened. Here I only hope to convey to readers some idea of what the Labor Committee did at Columbia and why Columbia proved so vital to the creation of both the embryonic Labor Committee and to Mark Rudd's "Action Faction," the germ of what became Weatherman just a year later.7 Ironically, the hegemonic narrative of Columbia is still shaped by Weatherman theory: that by taking bold action, you either win your demands or provoke an over-reaction by the authorities, who then intervene so hamhandedly that they radicalize moderate liberals into becoming revolutionaries. One reason the Action-Faction narrative remains seductive is that much of it is obviously true. The police beatings did radicalize many students and generated tremendous sympathy for SDS. But the police actions were the culmination of a long period of political organizing marked by bitter disputes inside Columbia SDS over its political direction, disputes that the proto-Labor Committee at Columbia helped shape.8
BIRTH OF THE "LABOR COMMITTEE" AND THE PLOT AGAINST PL
To understand the history of the Columbia Labor Committee, a few words need to be said about how Columbia SDS worked as a whole. As an organization committed to "participatory democracy," the supreme body of Columbia SDS was the "General Assembly." Here members of the Columbia SDS chapter as a whole would gather on a regular basis to debate issues and vote on policy.
On a more practical and day-to-day level, however, Columbia SDS operated out of various sub-groupings approved by the General Assembly and known as committees. Each committee represented a specific project that members wanted to devote their time to. For example, if you wanted to expose Columbia's ties to the military-industrial complex, chances are you would work with the "IDA Committee," whose name referred to the university's Institute for Defense Analysis. If Columbia's expansion into Harlem concerned you most, you might decide to join the "Expansion Committee," which was dedicated to halting the university's construction of a new gym in Morningside Heights. And if you were especially interested in labor issues, you could join the Labor Committee, which encompassed both very specific initiatives, such as organizing Columbia's cafeteria workers, and much larger projects, like the Regional SDS Transit Project. Given the politics of Columbia, its Labor Committee was dominated by Tony Papert's PL cell, along with other independent radicals who were willing to collaborate with PL such as Steve Komm.
The "Labor Committee," then, was seen by other members of Columbia SDS as a creature of Progressive Labor, and so was the larger Regional SDS Transit Project, which was also endorsed by PL. As Komm-Papert relate in New Solidarity 3: "Jeffrey Gordon, Progressive Labor's student leader . . . was in regular attendance at [SDS Regional] transit project meetings until mid-March." Columbia SDS's decision to create the Labor Committee in the first place may even have been an attempt to build a firewall of sorts between the larger group and PL. From Komm-Papert New Solidarity 2:
When Praxis had divided the chapter into committees (hoping to sequester "PL" in the Labor Committee and consolidate its own base in the Draft and IDA Committees), Papert and Komm had already recruited for the Labor Committee by circulating internal papers on the upsurge in labor militancy and by bringing Joe Carnagie, head of the Rank and File Caucus of the Transit Workers Union, to speak on the TWU's need for support at an SDS chapter meeting.
Yet in the wheels-within-wheels world of the New York Left, the SDS Regional Transit Project was designed by LaRouche, Papert, and other proto-Labor Committee members as a kind of Trojan Horse into PL. From Komm-Papert New Solidarity 1:
The broader goals of the Transit Project tactic were to assure that the mass campus uprisings anticipated by the Labor Committee faction could be tightly linked by revolutionaries to the organization of black oppressed and trade-unionists off campus. This required the conquest of SDS regionally and nationally by its pro-working class factions, then led by the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), with the simultaneous reversal of class-in-itself or "centrist" character of that pro-working-class faction, to be achieved by enticing it into common-struggle organization with representatives of trade-unionists and black oppressed.
Realizing that both of SDS' hegemonic tendencies, "Praxis" and Progressive Labor, would tend to confine student uprisings within the circle of "student issues" and a student constituency, the fledgling Labor Committee factions, a minority within a minority, proposed to use the "outside" muscle of transit workers and riders to replace both of them with itself.9
In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche provides his own summary of the Labor Committee's origins at Columbia:
The name "Labor Committee," for example, first appeared in the autumn of 1967 at Columbia University. My friends at that campus had decided to intervene in the formation of a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) there. By autumn, matters had settled down to a three-way factional division among my friends, a trio around Mark Rudd, and an assortment my friends referred to as the "mush heads." Since the putative "mush heads" and Rudd's trio were anti-labor, my friends adopted the style of "Columbia SDS Labor Committee."
The name "Labor Committee" began to take on a life of its own through a second happenstance. There was no regional organization of SDS in New York City, so my friends thought it was a shrewd tactical move to form such a body. So, in early 1968, the "New York Regional SDS Labor Committee was formed. Some friends at Swarthmore, hearing of this, former a Philadelphia SDS Labor Committee in a similar way.
PL STRIKES BACK
During the entire period from approximately May to December 1968, the fiercest enemy of what became the Labor Committee arguably was neither Praxis nor the "Action Faction," but PL. Former New York PL member Dennis King recalls:
In November 1967, LaRouche's disciples and several New York PLP members launched the "SDS Transit Project." Their initial aim was to protest subway fare increases, but the group took on other issues. As the months passed, more PLP supporters were brought to LaRouche's classes and strategy sessions. When they began to raise his ideas at PLP meetings, they angered some of the more dogmatic members. But the PLP leadership hesitated to expel them. . . .
Members of PLP and the SDS Transit Committee were in the forefront of the Columbia strike. Tony Papert, chairman of Columbia PLP but heavily influenced by LaRouche, led the occupation of Low Library in support of black students barricaded in Hamilton Hall. . . A strike steering committee was established, on which Papert and his friends wielded great influence. It seemed to PLP's national leaders that the strike would become a PLP triumph, strengthening its hand within SDS nationally. But when the PLP leadership tried to give further instructions to their Columbia club, they discovered that LaRouche had most of the leverage.10
At the very beginning of the Columbia strike, Papert still could count on a certain amount of cooperation from second-tier PL leadership; Upper West Side PL organizer Jake Rosen may even have met with LaRouche. One example of local PL-LC cooperation came on 27 April 1967, during a huge "peace" rally in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. From Papert New Solidarity 3: "At Columbia, Rudd supported the LC's proposal to lead a march from Central Park to Columbia, and Progressive Labor Party's West Side Community Club, atypically, responded to a Labor Committee request for joint action with the news that they had already decided, independently, to organize such a march."11 Yet by mid-May PL's national leadership had grown more and more alarmed at Papert's influence and had begun actively plotting against him:
In mid-May, Papert asked PLP Vice-President and top black leader William Epton to help organize strike support in Harlem. Epton replied with two revealing excuses: first, "It sounds like white students want to use black people as battering rams again"; second, "No one in Harlem is interested in Columbia." Within two weeks, Epton's name appeared along with the SWP's Paul Boutelle's on the letterhead of a new organization calling itself "Harlem Committee to Support the Black Students in Hamilton Hall."
Then in early June, Papert was expelled from PL. Again from Papert New Solidarity 3:
By May, the factional situation with PL had reached greater clarity. LC and PL members Fraser and Papert had produced a paper, Economism or Socialism, for PL's pre-convention discussion, which contrasted Marxist united-front methods with PL's parochialism. Progressive Labor Chairman Milton Rosen secretly blocked its circulation and had Papert expelled early in June on the day after the Convention. By that time, Fraser and Papert's ten-to-fifteen-man faction were all active in Labor Committees in New York and Philadelphia.12
With Chairman Milt's decision to expel Papert then at the height of his prestige at Columbia PL lost any claim it had had to leading the Columbia revolt, as former Upper West Side PL activist Dennis King explains:
PLP, having expelled Papert for "revisionism," found itself isolated within Columbia SDS. Control passed almost entirely into the hands of SDS chapter chairman Mark Rudd, who was close to SDS national leadership. Rudd had at first cooperated with the Papert group but had little sympathy for them. He built his own influence through flamboyant speeches and press interviews. A strong PLP organization could have handled him by emphasizing tactics and program, and did in fact prevent honcho-type leadership from emerging during several later campus rebellions. But the Papert group, which began calling itself the SDS Labor Committee, was unable to outmaneuver Rudd on its own. It thus began to operate independently of the Columbia SDS chapter, under LaRouche's direct command.13
"GYM CROW" AND THE PROBLEM WITH "PRAXIS"
As it happened, in the build-up to the Columbia Strike it was not the Labor Committee but the Expansion Committee that first struck political gold for SDS. The Expansion Committee seized on Columbia's decision to build a new gym in Harlem's Morningside Heights as a shining symbol of the university's role as a ruthless landlord. Along with building the gym, Columbia had dispossessed long-time tenants from their homes on the Upper West Side to allow further expansion into the neighborhood.14 From the Komm-Papert New Solidarity 2 article:
Another SDS committee, the Expansion Committee, made an alliance in February with the activist wing of Columbia Citizenship Council (a liberal ghetto-help program), and with tenant organizers in Morningside Heights, on the gymnasium issue. The issue was selected as a symbol of Columbia's expansion policy and Columbia's eviction of a postwar total of 10,000 tenants from the Heights. As a result, SDS and Cit Council held a successful demonstration and march to the gym site with 150 students, supporting earlier community demonstrations. Further community demonstrations were stimulated, including one of 150 people in Harlem in April, at which Rap Brown spoke (and called for the burning of any gym constructed).
In response to this success in which they had played no part, Praxis leaders spent the better part of a steering committee meeting vituperatively attacking [PL's] Michael Golash, a chief organizer of the anti-gym campaign. Ted Gold, Peter Schneider and others proclaimed that the gym was a "black issue" around which only blacks could organize; it smacked of racism and elitism for white students to organize around an issue which was not a "student issue" (of the type of Praxis' draft counseling program). Papert and other Labor Committee members defended Golash and helped ensure that the gym would remain an SDS issue. It was partly due to this scandalous incident that Komm was referring to in his statement [in his "campaign speech" for SDS chairman], "SDS has to recognize that Columbia is part of New York City."
It was the key issue of gym expansion that in the wake of Martin Luther King's murder would lead Columbia's Student Afro-American Society (SAS or SAAS) into joint action with SDS and result in the first seizure of Hamilton Hall. Yet, incredibly, in the beginning of the April crisis Praxis initially rejected any SDS involvement in the gym issue as being "racist."
As for Praxis, it first emerged out of Columbia's Independent Committee on Vietnam, which in 1966 had become the Columbia chapter of SDS. Its leaders supported "student syndicalist" forms of radicalism identified with SDS leader Carl Davidson. Praxis was admirably committed to "long-term organizing," exhausting debates over ideas, endless meetings where everyone expressed his or her point of view, consensus decision-making and "base building." For these same reasons it strongly opposed more confrontational actions because it feared they would turn off the majority of students they wanted so desperately to reach. It was out of fear of alienating students that the Praxis-led Columbia SDS chapter of 1967 opposed the Papert-led sit-in against the CIA. The fact that PL members had organized the sit-in only made it worse for the Praxis faction. National SDS had voted not to exclude anyone on the basis of political beliefs, thus opening the way for members of various communist-identified groups to join. The "non-exclusionary" clause meant that the Stalin fans in PL could still be part of SDS.
Papert's 1967 action against the CIA, ironically enough, also helped inspire Mark Rudd and his "Action Faction" co-thinkers. From Rudd's memoir Underground:
In February a splinter group of SDS, people associated with the Maoist Progressive Labor Party, had sat in to block recruiters from the Central Intelligence Agency from interviewing potential employees. The recruiters left, but sixteen people received warning letters from the university for participating. My friend JJ joined the sit-in, but I stayed with the majority of the SDS chapter that had voted against disrupting the recruiting. I was swayed by the arguments of Ted Kaptchuk, the chapter chairman, and his vice chairman, Ted Gold, who felt that the disruption would polarize the campus against us because there was not a general understanding of why recruiting for the CIA was wrong. We were scared of being politically isolated from other students. Still, the Progressive Labor Party hard-core faction and its supporters ignored the vote and staged the sit-in.15
Rudd now gravitated more and more toward militant protests. Most notably, he participated in an SDS street action against LBJ's Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, which took place on 14 November 1967 outside the New York Hilton. The dominant SDS Praxis group at Columbia supported peaceful protest, but they strongly opposed the militant street tactics that attracted Rudd. From the Komm-Papert New Solidarity 1:
Some of the younger Praxis non-students in the "SDS Regional Office" and Mark Rudd, a "loose leader" no longer completely friendly with the Columbia Praxis clique, joined with [John] Jacobs in November 1967 to plan and organize "marshals" for a "wild-in-the-streets" demonstration against a speech by Dean Rusk at New York's Hilton Hotel. Jeff Jones and other "regional leaders" provided plastic bags of ox blood for demonstrators to throw at the limousines of the bourgeoisie. Spurred on by the recent example of the Pentagon anti-war march and confrontations, the several thousand demonstrators succeeded in blocking Sixth Avenue intermittently and tying up traffic for several hours before they were dispersed by mounted police.
This particular piece of foolishness and abortive attempts to repeat it was partially responsible for the "flaking away" of individuals like Steve Komm and Leif Johnson to the PLP/pre-Labor Committee pro-working class faction. The Rusk demonstration was the main issue raised by PL on January 28, 1968, when it brought a majority of fifty to a New York SDS Regional meeting at NYU. After soundly roasting the proto-anarchist leaders for calling an SDS bash without even asking anyone else in SDS about it, the PLP faction voted a virtual censure of the regional office "staff" by setting up an elected "regional committee" to supervise the "staff."16 Even the combined forces of the anarchists and the Praxis Axis (which was also embarrassed because it had also opposed the Rusk bash) could only muster 40 votes, so thoroughly had they dissipated SDS's momentum of the previous spring-fall.
It was at and immediately following this regional conference that the worth of the "transit project" proposal as a tactic for winning control of SDS was demonstrated. The transit project was the only positive proposal for regional action raised at the conference. (It was voted up almost unanimously, with Leif Johnson and Steve Komm as regional coordinators.)
In short, PL and Columbia's Praxis "base builders" opposed the kind of street protest that the Regional SDS leadership had organized and Rudd had endorsed. Rudd now saw the sharp divisions between the "Praxis" group at Columbia and the more militant "National Office"/New York network led by future Weatherman Jeff Jones. With his demonstrated willingness to take it to the streets (he was arrested at the November 1967 demo), Rudd may even have been "talent-scouted" by the National Office group, which must have been eager to have its own say in as important a chapter as Columbia SDS.
GROUCHO MARXISM AND THE POWER OF PIE
In January 1968, Mark Rudd joined an SDS delegation put together by the National Office to visit Cuba. Rudd later recalled in Underground: "About a month after the Hilton demonstration, I got a call from the SDS National Office inviting me to join a delegation of students going to Cuba."17 After receiving permission for a leave of absence from Columbia, Rudd spent some weeks in Cuba, where he met not only Cuban officials but Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF) fighters. The Cuban visit left Rudd ecstatic.18 Being part of the SDS delegation also solidified Rudd's status as a National Office protege, whether Rudd himself fully knew it or not.
Rudd's March 1968 decision to launch his own "spring offensive" against the draft further underscored his growing rejection of his old Praxis mentors. From Rudd's 1969 essay "Columbia: Notes on the Spring Rebellion":
From April 1967 to March 1968, the SDS chapter had been led by a group of people [i.e., Praxis HH] who tended to stress "organizing" and "base-building" above action and "confrontation." Though possessing a "Marxist" analysis, they believed that the way support is gained is by going out to people and talking to them about this analysis. Various pieties about the necessity to build the base before you take action and the dangers of isolating yourself from the base were incessantly pronounced in the name of the "Marxist analysis." The word "politics" was used as a bludgeon with which to beat unruly upstarts into place and to maintain control over the chapter.
In early March, at a meeting of the SDS Draft Committee . . . the question came up of what to do when the head of the Selective Service System for New York City [a Colonel Akst HH] came to speak at Columbia. Someone suggested that SDS greet the Colonel by attacking him physically which would clearly define the fact that we consider him to be an enemy. The idea was defeated by a vote of thirty-to-one after the old leadership of the chapter argued that an attack on the Colonel would not communicate anything to anyone (since the action had "no political content"). It was decided that the Draft Committee would be present at the speech to "ask probing questions." Several SDS members and non-members then organized clandestinely the attack on the Colonel.19
After the clandestine group decided to throw a pie at Colonel Akst, a few supporters of the Great Pie Plot contacted Ben Morea's Lower East Side-based Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers (UAW/MF) affinity group for help. They next recruited a radical hippy named Lincoln Pain, who had no affiliation with Columbia. While the Motherfuckers staged a diversion in the back of the room, Rudd, sitting in the front row, opened up a white box with a lemon meringue pie inside. Pain then hit Colonel Akst with the pie. In the confusion Rudd and Pain fled the room. Rudd later recalled:
Only two groups on campus did not dig what became known as "the pie incident." First, there was the administration of Columbia University, which disapproved for obvious reasons. Second, there was the old leadership of Columbia SDS, which disapproved because the action was terroristic and apolitical and would jeopardize our base on campus. Meanwhile, almost everyone on campus thought it was the best thing SDS had every done. . . . In a criticism session held after the pie incident, members of the chapter began to learn the difference between the verbal 'base-building," non-struggle approach of the old leadership (now called the "Praxis Axis" after the supplement of New Left Notes edited by Bob Gottlieb and Dave Gilbert, of whom many of the old leadership were self-styled followers) and the aggressive approach of those who saw the primacy of developing a movement based on struggle. This latter group, centered around myself and John Jacobs as well as others in and out of SDS, came to be known as "the Action Faction" due to the never-ending search for symmetry.20
In this same article, Rudd apotheosized the pie attack as "in symbolic miniature form, the same dynamic of exemplary action by a small number and then mass identification which worked so well during the rebellion one month later."
"I RESIGN AS CHAIRMAN OF THIS FUCKING ORGANIZATION!": MARK RUDD TAKES OVER COLMBIA SDS
Later that same March, Columbia's newly famous Groucho Marxist now became the new chairman of Columbia SDS. From Rudd's memoir Underground:
I helped form a caucus composed primarily of the younger people in the chapter the freshmen and the sophomores plus JJ and a few other juniors. We quickly became known as "The Action Faction." I ran for chapter chairman. In the end, in order to defeat a rival Progressive Labor Party slate, the Maoist bunch attempting to infiltrate Columbia SDS to recruit new members, we joined with our friendly opposition, led by the two Teds, Kaptchuk and Gold. The Praxis Axis, as the old-timers were now known, put up Nick Freudenberg for vice-chairman, a soft-spoken and smart sophomore, and our combined slate easily defeated the candidate from PL.21
The "candidate from PL" was Columbia sophomore Steve Komm, the co-coordinator of the Regional SDS Transit Project and a leading member of the proto-Labor Committee. Komm-Papert New Solidarity 2 offers its own analysis of how Rudd became the new chairman of Columbia SDS:
In October 1967, the leadership of the Columbia SDS chapter recognized as such by almost all of the 300 students attending the first fall meeting was the Praxis faction. Praxis was led in 1966-67 by [future Weatherman] John Fuerst, the SDS chairman that year, and Harvey Bloom; it was led in 1967-68 by [future Weatherman] Ted Gold, SDS vice-chairman, by graduate students (and SDS steering committee members) Alvin Hornstein and Peter and Linda Schneider, and by Nancy Beiberman, then the girl friend of Ted Kaptchuk, the 1967-68 SDS chairman. Between them they controlled Kaptchuk who by himself was inoffensive but ineffective and rudderless and a majority of the steering committee, which could be described the same way.
In March 1968, elections were held for a new chairman and other officers. The Praxis faction, by then generally known as "the Praxis axis," was unable to field a candidate for chairman. Mark Rudd, who had been in Fuerst's faction, ran independently of Praxis, which distrusted him. Rudd won by a vote of only 38-33 against Steve Komm, the candidate of the Labor Committee-PLP faction. Further, after Komm's "campaign" speech on ramifications of the world economic crisis, in which he said "the question is whether SDS will or will not recognize that Columbia is part of New York City," Rudd stated that he completely agreed with Komm's speech and was running only because he would be better able to bring into SDS the hundreds of campus radicals and activists who had become disillusioned with it.
What had happened to Columbia SDS?
Answering their own question, Komm and Papert argued that Praxis was incapable of coping with the intensifying radicalization inside the United States signaled by, among other things, major riots in cities like Newark and Detroit. Praxis didn't know how to respond because:
First of all, its leaders were people attracted to the idea of being in the most popular clique on the basis of adapting to the backwardness of the majority. They naturally extended this mode of operation to SDS's "outside" work, about which they had the syndicalist idea that "we have to build a movement on campus" and then consider how to affect society, end the war, etc. The combination of ideas and mode of practice led them to constantly fear "alienating" the "campus majority" which to Gold, Hornstein, et al. was the layer of left-liberal sociology majors, graduate students and "Marxist" junior instructors from which they came. Thus, SDS under Praxis leadership was subject to the most violent tactical vacillations.
It was a larger crisis inside Praxis, then, that set the stage for Rudd's ascension:
Along with Praxis' evident "inability to rule" came its further disintegration, leading directly to the election of Rudd as SDS chairman. In our direction came [PL's Michael] Golash and the Expansion Committee. In the other direction . . . .
A "sophomore caucus" of SDS's younger Praxisites had been meeting secretly all year (to "train a new leadership"). In the months before the new election, Stu Gedal and other future anarchist leaders had begun to criticize Praxis' inability to generate action. . . . When Rudd returned in February from a six-week trip to Cuba, Gedal and others in the "sophomore caucus" began to respond with interest to his newly-sharpened discussion of the need for action.
Only one incompetent boob (Nick Freudenberg) was left behind in Praxis, which thus lost its potential front man candidates for chairman. The final step occurred immediately before the election meeting, when the sophomore caucus met with Rudd and Freudenberg to question them and see if they could trust either one to run the chapter competently. Rudd won out easily.
Praxis' hands were then tied; if it ran Freudenberg against Rudd, both would lose to Komm, handing the chapter to "PL." Thus, it was the fragmentation of the Praxis Axis which gave Rudd a base to appeal to after his election, when he began sharply attacking Praxis for backbiting and doing nothing. But what determined the direction of the chapter was that Rudd and his faction of John Jacobs and two other "action freaks" had to maneuver between two fractions of about 35 members each.
Komm and Papert argued that when the crisis hit Columbia that April, Rudd realized he could not count on Praxis to back him up. After Low was seized, Rudd went to a large SDS meeting at Ferris Booth Hall and proposed that SDS endorse new building seizures in support of both the black students at Hamilton and Papert's small group in Low. He was voted down 70-3 by the Praxis majority that included the "two Teddies" (Kaptchuk and Gold) as well as Dave Gilbert. It was then that Rudd made his famous declaration "I resign as chairman of this fucking organization" and stormed out of the room.22
Meanwhile students who had nothing to do with SDS now spontaneously occupied new buildings on their own, a development which so embarrassed Praxis that Rudd soon resumed his position as SDS chairman. At this point, Papert claims, Rudd essentially threw in with the Labor Committee from late April to sometime in June. From Papert New Solidarity 3:
The fact is that from at latest the morning of April 24, 1968, Rudd had functioned almost exclusively as a public spokesman for the Labor Committee faction's implementation of the basic policy on which the strike depended. . . .
Granting his occasional deviations, concessions to the Praxis and anarchist groups and to his own small independent base represented by future Weatherman "spokesman" John Jacobs, Rudd supported every major Labor Committee faction expression of this policy [generating outside support for the strike] for a month; the seizure of additional buildings from the morning of the 24th; the fight against Fayerweather-Praxis liquidationism; anti-war, high-school, and college radical demonstrations at Columbia; the May 1-2 expansion of the Strike Coordinating Committee to include representatives of all strike-demand supporters from all over the city; the simultaneous formation of the Columbia "Liberation School" as a counter-institution to ruling-class mis-education at Columbia and area elementary and high schools; joint action with Morningside Heights tenants against Columbia's land-grabbing expansionism; joint action with ILGWU garment workers and Columbia employees.
With Rudd handling media, Tony Papert deliberately stayed in the background. His decision to fly under the radar as much as possible gave rise to new rumors that he was the shadowy Svengali behind the Columbia uprising.
KOMM-UNIST CONSPIRACY? THE ORIGIN OF "CONTINGENCY A"
One of the most amazing moments in early Labor Committee history took place shortly before the occupations, when Steve Komm presented his "Spring Offensive Proposal" to Columbia SDS's General Assembly. Komm's plan turned out to be so astonishingly prophetic of future events that it was seized on by SDS opponents as proof that what happened at Columbia was the result of a truly diabolical conspiracy. Komm authored his proposal on the eve of protests to defend the "IDA Six." The Six were made up of five SDS members (including Rudd and Ted Gold) and one independent radical who led the draft resistance chapter at Columbia. All were threatened with possible expulsion for breaking a college ban on indoor protests for a 27 March demonstration against the Institute for Defense Analysis. The 1969 book Up Against the Ivy Wall, a history of the Columbia strike penned by Columbia Spectator student reporters, describes Komm's "rather remarkable proposal" this way:23
The "ideal" course for SDS to take was suggested in a rather remarkable proposal presented by sophomore Steve Komm, who several weeks before had lost to Rudd in the race for the chairmanship. His manifesto was entitled, "proposal for a spring offensive against Columbia RACISM," and was marked in heavy letters, "For internal circulation." It stated the problem in the following way:
[The administration's action] comes at a time when SDS is vociferous but isolated from a mass student and faculty base of support. . . . Moderation would give credence to and ratify the administration's conduct regulations, which amount to a political castration of SDS. Our reply to the administration's attack must be a political offensive against the University on substantive issues which maximize the opportunities for student and faculty support.
Komm went on to outline immediate and longer-range tactics. The former were fairly conventional for SDS. The demonstrators would first stage a rally at the Sundial. Following the rally the demonstration would flow inside Low Library, where Rudd would present President Kirk with a written demand for open hearings for the "IDA Six" on Monday April 29. The remainder of Komm's proposal in which concrete plans gave way to less "realistic" but strangely prophetic suggestions was offered lightly, even whimsically, with the understanding that the actual plans for longer-range tactics would be developed at a steering committee meeting the next night. It read:
Contingency A: Fistfights, police violence, similar excitement. Steering Comm. Tues. night plans larger demo. Wed., perhaps with campus anti-racism coalition [black students]. We all pull out quotations from M. L. King. Dorm canvassing late into night. If Wed. all right, see "Escalate," below (d). (Two scenarios: one, ever-bigger demonstrations effectively shutting down afternoon classes until they give in; two, Thurs. 500 or more people sit in [take over] Kirk's/Platt's office until demands granted; Fri. morning they call a sympathy strike.) . . .
Komm's scenario continued, "Open struggle, perhaps with city cops, will develop, we fight! Community support, black students, libs begin to come in," and then for a week later, "Occupation and blockade of Low, continue pressure until University capitulates on demands." The long-range plans in the proposal were presented sketchily, amid considerable laughter; they were accepted only tentatively, after hardly any discussion.
Komm-Papert New Solidarity 2 describes what happened when on 19 April Komm representing the Labor Committee faction first presented his proposal to the Columbia SDS Steering Committee meeting:
To introduce his resolution, Komm stated that "If we do the right things, we can have another Berkeley at Columbia." If not now, then at the culmination of the campaign in the fall. He then described a proposed scenario for "turning the defense into an offense" through a demonstration against discipline, the gym and IDA on Tuesday followed by an "accountability day" hearing on the university's crimes, which might bring in Cit Council [Citizenship Council], SAS [the Student Afro-American Society, Columbia's black student union HH], and liberal faculty. (The hearing was the idea of Paul Rockwell, an independent SDS publicist then attracted to the Labor Committee faction.)
In response, various Praxisites muttered that they didn't like the demands at Berkeley. Komm responded that he meant "a Berkeley on a higher level dealing with the problems of the ghetto." Ted Gold then said "the trouble with Berkeley was that all their people got arrested." (This continued to be his point of view throughout the strike.) Rudd had a slightly different point: "I think that the key to this proposal is that Steve thinks we can have another Berkeley here. We should discuss that point, because I don't think that's true."
That was the low point of stupidity. Over the weekend Rudd sounded out the SAS leaders and discovered that they would come into a demonstration for an open hearing for SDS if the gym was an issue.
The article recalls that Rudd had personally been very pessimistic about any success at Columbia, telling Komm earlier that week that "a 'Spring Offensive' just means the same thirty people doing twice as much work. Why, I can't even get anyone to type me a stencil!" The article also quotes an important section of the initial Komm proposal that read:
The moral issue of the war and the physical threat of the draft will no longer bring out huge numbers of students to our defense . . . nowadays Grayson [Kirk], [Mayor] Lindsay, and [President] Johnson are against it too. [Referring to a Kirk speech against the war in March and Johnson's bombing halt and resignation on March 31.] The administration knew this when it sent out the letters [of discipline on April 3]. But what it did not know was that the long hot summer would begin three months early. As they were acting on the assumption that the anti-war issue had been co-opted and removed from public consciousness, another great injustice was thrust into public and student concerns. Dr. King's assassination on April 4 put Columbia in a very ticklish position . . . the student body is highly volatile . . . The connections are there; Kirk and Truman fear they will be made, and thus hide the issue of oppression and exploitation behind one of "violence versus non-violence" . . .
The authors then note:
Also over the weekend, a group of right-wingers and football players issued an anonymous leaflet calling for a confrontation with SDS at its Tuesday demonstration. In response, Papert suggested to Komm that he include the following in the scenario for his revised proposal (to be presented to a Monday night meeting with Rudd's support).
The new "revised proposal" was again presented to the SDS chapter meeting on 22 April by Komm for the entire Labor Committee faction. That revised proposal now included the famous "Contingency A":
At the SDS meeting on Monday night, April 22, there was no open opposition only the universal opposition of pessimism to Komm's proposal for an "SDS demonstration against university discipline" a demonstration which brought 800 students, including 50 blacks, into participation the next day and which during the following weeks won the active and passive support of tens of thousands of ghetto dwellers and students. We leave to the reader's imagination just how pitiful SDS's failure would have been without the guiding presence of the Labor Committee.
The very next day, Tuesday 23 April, Columbia exploded when demonstrators first marched to the site where the gym was being constructed and then began occupying Hamilton Hall. After the black students declared that they wanted just black students to occupy Hamilton to call specific attention to the gym, SDS regrouped. Then on 24 April, Tony Papert and other white SDS members took over Columbia President Grayson Kirk's office in Low in solidarity with Hamilton. As rumors spread that Low was going to be busted by the cops, many of the occupiers fled. The core group that stayed largely came from Papert's PL chapter. Contrary to all expectations, Columbia's administrators didn't call the cops, because they didn't know how they should deal with their main problem, Hamilton. A police invasion of Hamilton and forceful attack on its black student occupiers could have had enormous ramifications, not just at Columbia but in Harlem, and around the world. To make matters worse, there were rumors that guns had been seen in Hamilton. Because Columbia's officials didn't know how to deal with Hamilton, they decided not to evict the students at Low.
The crisis then continued to escalate at a speed no one could have predicted. On 26-28 April, students occupied Avery, Mathematics, and Fayerweather Halls. Then on 30 April, a controlled police action meant to clear the occupied buildings suddenly devolved into a police riot when club-swinging cops began brutally attacking students, including students who had nothing to do with the protests. Some 712 people were arrested by the end of the bloody melee.
The police attack virtually shut down Columbia as many previously neutral students now openly backed SDS in the wake of the police attack. It was in the midst of this crisis that LaRouche reportedly first appeared at a workshop held on campus. From Columbia SDS member Bob Feldman's memoir at his blog Sundial Memories:
Tony [Papert] suddenly had great prestige in Columbia SDS circles, despite his PL background and left-sectarian record of the previous 2 years, because he had helped hold the Low Library student rebels together and had won the respect of newly politicized hippie-type undergraduates for a while. As a result of Tony's influence, Labor Committee head "Lynn Marcus" and his cult members were invited to speak to Strike Committee-sponsored workshops on the South Lawn of the campus.
"Lynn Marcus" was apparently a former SWP member of the 1950s who apparently worked for some Wall Street firm in the 1960s. In spring 1968, he projected himself as a Marxist revolutionary socialist in the Rosa Luxemburg tradition. He pushed the line that the student strike at Columbia should quickly be expanded into a mass strike in New York City. When the French Student Revolt of May 1968 began to spread rapidly and attract the support of young French industrial workers, after the students battled with French cops in Paris's Latin Quarter a few days after the Columbia bust, Marcus's proposed political strategy did not seem unrealistic.
The Labor Committee distributed a short pamphlet by LaRouche (The Mass Strike) that linked Columbia with the Sorbonne as examples of capitalism in crisis. Written on 19 May,The Mass Strike is in part LaRouche's attempt to update Rosa Luxemburg's 1906 essay on the mass strike process.24 It begins:
One of the leading associated features of the Columbia strike process has been the general miasma of tactical incompetence and want of comprehension originating in the ranks and peripheries of the nation's ruling elite. As the coincidence of Columbia with Paris and Germany's SDS suggests, these events inaugurate a new pre-revolutionary interval in the history of advanced capitalism as a whole. This emerges, as has been the case for every pre-revolutionary period since the turn of the century, in the form of a mass strike process in the sense given to the mass strike by Rosa Luxemburg. In a pre-revolutionary period, all previously established laws of normal human behavior are superseded by the special set of laws peculiar to that mass strike process. All those accustomed to successful wheeling-and-dealing in an "orderly world" discover their fatuous tactical recipes for government reduced to impotence in [the] face of a new social phenomenon with its own peculiar laws.
In Mass Strike, LaRouche critiques the Action Faction this way:
The adventurer mindlessly tries to "electrify the masses." He reflects this by his anti-intellectualism, his hostility to the process of developing theory and program. "What we need is [not] talk but action," such people contend. They do not understand that masses will not move until the way for decisive action has been prepared by clarity on issues of program, that mass forces must begin to assimilate an appropriate program, must be won to agreement with its leading demands, before vanguard mass action should be launched in behalf of those demands.
The role of the emerging mass strike leadership is to prepare the broader leaders with propaganda and organization as well as local struggles. When this process has been brought to a certain stage of ripeness, new bold political strike actions are initiated. It is, in the literal sense, a dialectical process.
LaRouche then attacked PL's "point of production" "workerism":
The existing trade unions are least likely to initiate social layers in such struggles. The pure and simple trade union militant, like Adam Smith, regards his employer's income as entirely the product of the particular, concrete labor employed in that local firm. He, therefore, views his struggle, at the local point of production, as an essentially private affair between himself and his employer. No outside agitators or unemployed layers allowed to meddle, under any circumstances! Barring the most extraordinary circumstances of actual or imminent mass political struggles, the pure and simple trade union militant is absolutely incapable of understanding or struggling for the fundamental self-interest of his class as a whole.
Because of trade union craft backwardness, the mass strike process would first break out elsewhere:
Thus, the CIO movement of the early thirties was the focal point of a general mass strike process during the pre-revolutionary interval of that time. Now, since "business unionism" began to set in firmly in the late thirties, the mantle of the potential revolutionary vanguard of the class has passed from the previously unorganized industrial workers to the Black super-exploited, the Spanish speaking, etc., of our time.
LaRouche also explored the idea of deeper human transformation:
What students represent is not simply the most mobile potential catalytic force. Socialism, socialist consciousness, consists in establishing democratic control over the causal relationship between production and "consumption," that is to control production, not for higher wages at the point of production, but in order to consciously regulate the material conditions of our own lives. In the spiritual side of things, to accomplish that is to become human for the first time in the history of our race, to create a new, higher form of man, exerting conscious control over the forces that shape his own life.
Hoping to ignite a mass strike by "super-exploited" black and Hispanic workers, the Labor Committee now furiously tried to organize the New York garment center that summer. With backing from NY Regional SDS (with the notable exception of PL), the newly-formed New York Regional SDS Labor Committee published its own agitation sheet specifically targeting garment workers. The first issue of the newspaper, Solidarity, appeared on 15 July 1968.25
THE COLUMBIA SUMMER LIBERATION SCHOOL
Even as SDS Labor Committee cadre organized in the garment center, Columbia SDS Labor Committee member Bob Dillon helped found the Columbia Summer Liberation School (SLS). Here students could take a dizzying series of classes, from Marx to belly dancing. Throughout that summer LaRouche and Carol taught classes at the SLS. They were also present for withering debates between the new Labor Committee faction against both the Praxis "new working class" theorists and newly-minted Action Faction "propaganda of the deed" enthusiasts.
In The Strawberry Statement, Columbia SDS member James Simon Kunen provides a rare eyewitness account (pp. 135-40) of a very late July or early August 1968 debate that includes LaRouche.26 From The Strawberry Statement: "Then there was a debate between Papert for the Labor Committee and Rudd and a [Dave] Gilbert for the action faction." Kunen then reports that in the middle of the discussion, "a very erudite and aged-looking fellow with a beard and everything" spoke. Although Kunen apparently had no clue as to the identity of the "very erudite" fellow, it is clearly LaRouche, who at the time wore a full beard. At the debate, LaRouche peddled his take on the imminent end of capitalism, telling the assembled audience: "But if the banks had stayed open two more days in the gold crisis, we'd all have been in the midst of a world depression. If you subscribe to the under-consumption theory . . . there is no crisis. But there is a crisis."27
LaRouche's companion Carol made an appearance as well. Kunen writes: "A woman teacher, who hangs around fulfilling everyone's mother need, spoke ominously for a moment: 'To be against the system is not enough. Mussolini came from the left that way. Hitting the streets is not enough.'" This reference to "Mussolini came from the left" is a harbinger of the LaRouche-Carol article "New Left, 'Local Control' and Fascism," published a month or so later in the September 1968 issue of Campaigner.
The debate that Kunen attended took place at the Columbia Summer Liberation School, located at 556 West 114th Street. The SLS informally sublet the space, a four-story brownstone owned by the Beta chapter of the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity and dubbed by some "Sigma Delta Sigma."28 The SLS offered some 37 weekly courses and briefly published its own weekly, called Struggle. In Samuel Hays' study of the Columbia strike, first published in the June 1969 Political Science Quarterly, he reports that the SLS became an intense ground for struggle over the future of SDS between the Labor Committee on one side and the New Working Class and Action Faction groupings on the other:
Paul Rockwell and Tony Papert argued for the position of the New York SDS Labor Committee against the "new working class" tendencies. Their development of a well-formulated position was one of the major New Left innovations in the summer of 1968. By the fall they had become a major source of opposition to the "new working class" element in Columbia SDS; they supported the Teachers Union and opposed community control in the teachers strike on the grounds of the dangers of decentralization, and this in direct opposition to SDS leadership.29
Even Hays' description, however, cannot do justice to the intensity of the debates which took place in the wake of the Columbia Strike, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, May '68 in Paris, the rise of the George Wallace movement, and the riots outside the Democratic Party convention in Chicago.
Not surprisingly, PL took a dim view of the Labor Committee's role in the SLS. From a note by Roger Taus entitled "Len Marcus: Marxist or Scab?" in the October 1968 issue of Progressive Labor:
L. Marcus holds the dubious distinction of being the Columbia Liberation School's first "professor." When 730 students were released from jail after holding five buildings at Columbia for seven days, Marcus began a serious of "liberated" classes which lasted throughout the strike and into the formal "liberation" school following the strike. Marcusites drew students away from the task of keeping Columbia shut down (by militant, mass, and, if necessary, violent picketing) in order to win the demands of the strike . . . . Marcus, along with other "liberated" professors, such as JFK's Vietnam adviser Roger Hillsman, helped the administration break the strike with these supposedly "new," "democratic," and "revolutionary" classes on the lawn.
Marcusite Bob Dillon was the leading organizer of these classes. The Marcusites, along with the advocates of the "new working class" and Debrayist line, pushed liberated classes, not as an educational adjunct to the strike, but as a substitute for involving thousands of students in a real strike.
"THE NEW LEFT, 'LOCAL CONTROL,' AND FASCISM"
During the planning for the summer school, LaRouche heard always memorable JJ give a speech that still appalled him decades later:
during the late spring of 1968, John Jacobs was addressing a meeting of about 200, a meeting convened to deliberate on opposing proposals for a summer school program. Jacobs appeared to be mentally ill, severely disassociated. I had done studies in the language behavior of schizophrenics during the late 1940s; Jacobs' behavior conformed to that sort of thing exactly. He was hooting out a series of totally disjointed slogans, with scarcely a verb used anywhere. Yet a large claque was cheering some among those disassociated expostulations. I had no familiarity with rock lyrics, but some eyewitnesses to that event who did, explained the business to me. Jacobs, who later gave the Weathermen their name was spouting disjointed fragments of rock lyrics in a sequence corresponding to some disassociated sort of free association going on within him.
LaRouche then pondered:
How could a sizable number of university-educated students contrive to support a policy expressed in disassociated babblings with no explicit proposal of any sort contained anywhere within the utterance? Such behavior does occur among schizophrenics in psychiatric wards. They were not supporting any idea; they were cheering his allusions to a series of rock lyrics, an association which evoked some sort of pleasurable sensation within them. Jacobs wasn't talking to them; he was, symbolically, stroking them sexually, and they decided they wished to be raped. They were not supporting a policy; they were conveying a desire to go with Jacobs, wherever it was he might decide to lead them. (The Power of Reason (1988 edition), 157-58.)
Jacobs and Mark Rudd's activity on Columbia especially over the summer convinced LaRouche that they were so irrational that they had the makings of a new Sorealian "left fascist" current analogous the the left wing of Mussolini's fascist movement or the "Strasser wing" of the Nazi Party:
I considered the evidence of this "left fascist character at a meeting of our factional forces that month [June 1968]. I stressed that this was not a matter of denouncing Rudd's factional forces with unpleasant words. The issue was a matter of properly diagnosing the character of this phenomena, a diagnosis essential for forecasting the probable course of next developments around this kind of political stratum then emerging across the nation. My report met much resistance that evening, but it prompted serious study of the German and Italian precedents to which I had referred. (Power of Reason, 1988, 115-16.)
In the Fall of 1968 LaRouche and Carol co-wrote a Campaigner cover article entitled "The New Left, Local Control and Fascism" that ideologically helped set the stage for the SDS Labor Committee's clash with the Rudd forces over the UFT strike. (For a more detailed look at that document, see the Appendix on ESSO and Abbie Hoffman.) The Campaigner article also represented LaRouche's partial critique of Papert and other SDS Labor Committee members at Columbia whom LaRouche felt had not been critical enough of the Rudd-JJ bloc.
One of the ironies of Columbia is that the Labor Committee and the proto-Weatherman despised the "Praxis/New Working Class" New Left types. It was the lack of "struggle" inside the main branch of Columbia SDS, the tremendous fear the centrist SDS leadership had of "vanguard acts" that could alienate less political students as well as radical-liberal professors, whom many professional campus activists looked up to as surrogate father figures who could mentor them into academia, led the National Office-allied wing of the struggle along with the SDS Labor Committee to conclude that SDS was filled with big-talking "campus radical" chickens. When on 21 May JJ set fire to the office of a Columbia professor named Orest Ranum and destroyed years of his research, he took symbolic aim at this still-dominant wing of SDS on campus for their failure to break with their bourgeois roots. (Ranum had self-appointed himself as a "mediator" between the students and the administration.) The later demand from the "anarchists" that SDS "trash" Butler Library was in much the same spirit. (For more, see the chapter "Bad Marx.") Hence when SDS as a national organization fell apart at the June 1969 Chicago convention, very few members of the RYM I/Weatherman faction as well as the emerging Labor Committee shed tears for the collapse of old SDS. In their minds, the more "respectable" wing of SDS beloved by radical liberals had shown itself time and time again to be a counter-revolutionary drag on militant action. Papert and company, who had long been anathematized by the old SDS leadership at Columbia as hopeless Stalinists, shared this feeling of contempt with Rudd and JJ. For a time it led the Columbia group to develop what LaRouche considered a too-soft position towards the "anarchists," a problem the "New Left" Campaigner now tried to remedy.
Polemic aside, at the core of the division between the Labor Committee and the proto-Weatherman was that the Labor Committee argued that "New Working Class" (NWC) theory was wrong and that it was still necessary to orient towards the white proletariat instead of conceding the field completely to the likes of a George Wallace. To the National Office-allied "Action Faction" at Columbia, this strategy was simply a moronic "Old Left" mirage. The main bulwark of counter-revolution precisely was the white working class as it acted as the main defenders of what was called "white skin privilege." Yet, like the Labor Committee, the Action Faction also rejected NWC ideas beloved by "Praxis" and instead tried to orient to more marginalized sections of the population, and upsurges in the black ghettos in particular.
ENTER THE FORD FOUNDATION
During the Columbia strike, the Labor Committee argued that black students had been persuaded not to participate in the Strike Committee but to negotiate separately with the Columbia administration by "Ford Foundation agents" like prominent CCNY psychology professor Kenneth Clark and his son Hilton Clark, the former head of the Student Afro-American Society (SAS) who graduated from Columbia in 1966. The Labor Committee believed the Ford Foundation was actively involved in multiple attempts to divide "moderate" students from the radicals on the Strike Committee by co-opting student syndicalism. In a 22 January 1969 leaflet, "How the Anarchists Destroyed the Columbia Strike," the N.Y. SDS Labor Committee wrote:
So, beginning in May, the strike movement began to ebb in what Marxian sociologists would regard as a lawful way. The first conspicuous reflection of that turn was the success of certain CIA-type agents in splitting the campus wing of the Strike Committee creating the Ford Foundation's Students for a Reconstructed University, a classic application of CIA techniques to the Columbia situation. This split was not the result of the cleverness of the "CIA agents" involved, but the result of the opportunity for "CIA" intervention by the combined ebb of the movement and its lack of subjective preparation.30
The Ford Foundation was heavily invested in Columbia. Ed Schwartz who held the dubious distinction of being the first president of the National Student Association (NSA) right after its CIA funding was disclosed recalls in his book Will the Revolution Succeed? that as NSA president, "I would walk into the Ford Foundation literally off the streets, direct from participation in some of the events at Columbia University. There I would complete negotiations on a $315,000 grant designed to encourage student-initiated projects in educational change."31
Columbia radical Bob Feldman notes: "During the summer, however, some of these less radical strike committee students ended up splitting off from the Columbia Strike Committee, accepting Ford Foundation money and (according to declassified documents) even apparently acting as FBI informants, at the same time they formed the 'Students for a Restructured University.'" The Ford Foundation gave somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 to Students for a Restructured University (SRU), which was led by graduate students who dominated the "moderate" faction on the Strike Committee. In Underground, Mark Rudd writes that in the Strike Committee debates, "we fought bitterly with the liberals who joined the strike after the bust about how much to push the issue of reconstructing the university." Rudd recalled that the Strike Committee was initially composed only of students who had occupied the buildings, but after the police attacks it was opened up to include many more participants.
Then around 10 pm on 1 May the newly expanded group met to discuss its future. As Rudd recalls: "Earlier that afternoon the old Strike Coordinating Committee had met and decided that Tony Papert, who had a lot of prestige because of his solid leadership in Low Commune, and I would present a proposal to expand the committee by first ratifying the original six demands. Then we could move on to talk about remaking the university."32 That Wednesday night the "moderates" in the crowd, representing some 250 graduate students, were "fuming" at Rudd and Papert and wanted the protest to go in a new direction they didn't want the strike to be held hostage the radical faction's "six demands." The ensuing debate went on for two hours:
Finally [future Weatherman] Dave Gilbert, calmly chairing the meeting, called for a voice vote over the two proposals. A clear majority of those present voted for the radical Strike Committee plan. But Tony and I didn't want a split with the moderates it would weaken the strike. We conferred briefly, and Tony told me not to bother with the vote and to accept the moderates' proposal. He later regretted the advice. Without a pause for reflection, possibly because of my weariness, I grabbed the microphone, turned to the audience and said, "We accept the graduate students' proposal."
The room erupted in deafening applause and cheers. My unexpected move I surprised even myself had averted a split on that first day of the expanded strike. Sympathetic professors rushed up to shake my hand, saying that they'd never seen such a brilliant political maneuver. But even at that moment, I suspected that the inevitable split between the liberals and the radicals was only postponed.33
Indeed, a short time later the graduate students abandoned the Strike Committee and created SRU, which stressed campus "quality of life" issues in opposition to the "politicos" in SDS. SRU would then receive thousands of dollars from Ford and other foundations.
Rudd's contempt for the SRU was boundless. In "Columbia: Notes on the Spring Rebellion," he writes:
Throughout the summer we considered the arch-liberal Students for a Reconstructed University to be the main competition to the radical movement on campus. But we were totally mistaken.
After people have been exposed even peripherally to a movement that fights for meaningful goals . . . how can they go back to their old liberal ideas about reform of institutions? . . . This fall, the fifteen member student, faculty, administration, and trustee committee on restructuring held hearings on plans to reform Columbia. Out of a university of 17,000, 40 people showed up. Columbia College . . . held elections for candidates to various restructuring committees. Out of a student body of 2,600, only 240 voted. . . .
The liberals who set up SRU were supported with $50,000 from Ford and other foundations as well as with publicity from The New York Times. Yet the people who founded SRU were both incapable of organizing masses at Columbia, at least, only radicals can do that and incapable of projecting interest in their reformist crusades. . . . These were the liberal ego-freaks, the student council opportunist types that abound on every middle-class campus, and take on the self-appointed title, "Student Leader." . . . Sometimes these people attack SDS, very often they are found licking our asses. It is also these people whom you find pushing "student power" look at the national leadership of the National Student Association so they can wear three-piece suits, striped ties, have sherry with the Deans and be the future administrators and CIA agents of America. SDS must by-pass the freaks-on-the-make and reach out to other students and working people with politics that, indeed, are relevant.
Yet when the Ford Foundation funded its own version of "Black Power" in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Mark Rudd could not bring himself to oppose it.
CONCLUSION: THE LABOR COMMITTEE AND WEATHERMAN
When LaRouche first came to Columbia he was still identified as the head of West Village CIPA and Tony Papert still officially ran Columbia's PL chapter. When the dust finally settled sometime in late May or early June, a new independent organization, the "Marcusite" SDS Labor Committee, had emerged from the rubble. In April-May 1968, radical students from other schools notably Sarah Lawrence and CCNY became involved in strike support as well. During the Columbia protests, some of them were won over to the new SDS Labor Committee tendency.
Looking back at the crisis, Papert could not help but think that "the Weatherman group would not have been formed when it was or as it was" if things had gone differently at Columbia. Papert claimed that If the proto-Labor Committee faction had prevailed in the weeks after the strike, "Instead of being dominated and destroyed by anti-working-class anarchists, the student movement could have come under socialist leadership based on an explicitly pro-working class alliance of students and oppressed black people."34 Instead, the crisis at Columbia energized the Action Faction and later led the newly constituted Weatherman to destroy national SDS just a year later.
In the wake of Columbia, the "Action Faction" became a larger national tendency as Rudd toured college campuses with his mantra of deliberately provoking violent confrontations to further radicalize students and "expose the system." Action Faction bluster and Rudd's media superstar status now served as the SDS National Office's new battering ram against PL. As the summer turned to fall, the factional situation in SDS (broadly speaking) looked something like this:
1) The "Action Faction" National Office network, which a year later would crystallize into the Weatherman/RYM I faction;
2) PLP's "Worker-Student Alliance" SDS front;
3) A bitterly anti-PL but pro-Maoist tendency associated with Mike Klonsky, Bob Avakian, and Noel Ignatin (Ignatiev) that later helped formed the core of "RYM II";
4) Thousands of radical students who had no hard and fast "factional" affiliation; and
5) The tiny "Labor Committees" in New York and Philadelphia.
In May-June 1968, the new Marcusite "SDS Labor Committee" emerged as a separate political tendency, with formal responsibility for publishing the Campaigner shared between the Philadelphia and New York SDS Labor Committees as West Village CIPA went out of existence.
Incredibly, it would be the newly-formed Labor Committee that would throw both PL and New York SDS as a whole into a frenzy that culminated in the Labor Committee's so-called "expulsion" from SDS. As for Mark Rudd, he parlayed his new-found fame into a new nickname: "Mark Stud." The SDS Labor Committee, however, less enamored of him, gave him a different moniker, "Mark Crud." The crisis that turned Stud to Crud was already looming. The New York City Teachers' Strike was about to begin.
1 The hostility to the CIA followed earlier revelations of Columbia's ties to the military-industrial complex through Columbia's Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA). Its operations were made public by an undergraduate SDS member named Bob Feldman and a graduate student named Michael Klare after they discovered documents linking IDA to the government in a Columbia library. The IDA story then appeared in the 31 March 1967 issue of the Columbia Daily Spectator. Also see Who Rules Columbia? for a detailed analysis of Columbia's relationship to corporations and groups like the CIA at http://www.utwatch.org/archives/whorulescolumbia.pdf.
2 Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973), 431. Future Labor Committee leaders Bob Dillon and Ed Spannaus also participated in the sit-in. According to Ed Spannaus, the only reason they were not all expelled from Columbia was that around the same time the Ramparts story broke about the CIA's involvement in the National Student Association and made protests against the CIA more respectable.
3 In 1968 at the time of the strike, Papert was enrolled as a graduate student at Columbia's Teachers College.
4 Dennis King, Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (New York: Doubleday, 1989), 14. Papert's close friend and fellow PL organizer Steve Fraser, who was then at the City College of New York (CCNY), also met LaRouche via the FUNY classes.
5 The phrase for this was turning the "class in itself" into a self-conscious "class for itself."
6 To state the obvious, it's impossible to really understand Columbia without, for example, examining the role of the black students in the revolt and how it affected the rest of the campus, not to mention terrify the administration. However, it is worth reading contemporary reports from Columbia from "right" as well as "left" sources. A good place to start is an extremely long article in the spring 1968 issue of Columbia Today entitled "Six Weeks that Shook Morningside" written by the editor, a 1951 Columbia alum named George Keller. The article shows how Papert was viewed by Keller and his informants as a Svengali-like manipulator of events. It also includes two very rare photos of Papert in action. See http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct_archive/cct_spring_1968.pdf, pp. 26, 85.
7 Bernadine Dohrn was active at Columbia as a staff member of the National Lawyers Guild, which offered free legal aid to students arrested by the police.
8 The disappearance of the Labor Committee from conventional histories of Columbia '68 as anything but a footnote has many reasons. One is that the Labor Committee as a separate organization simply did not exist then and there was no Labor Committee newspaper to offer its own perspective on events. In late 1970 and early 1971, however, Tony Papert and Steve Komm wrote a series of articles on Columbia in the Labor Committee newspaper, New Solidarity. I will list the articles here, but in future notes I will refer the reader to them by their number:
1) Komm and Papert, 18 December 1970.
2) Komm and Papert, 4 January 1971. (This article also includes a separate appendix on CIPA.)
3) Papert, 20 January 1971.
4) Papert and L. Marcus (LaRouche), (date missing in my copy but probably late January/early February 1971).
The most important Labor Committee publication in 1968 was the Campaigner, the group's theoretical journal. It had begun publication earlier in the year as part of the circle around CIPA and the SDS Transit Project campaign.
9 In other words, the anticipated success of the Transit Project organizing would be concrete proof that PL's organizing approach was as outdated as its leadership.
10 King, 14-15. In The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party, Jim Dann and Hari Dillon also write:
The late April, 1968, Columbia rebellion was the first opportunity to compare in action PL with the NO [SDS National Office] forces. And the NO forces, including the media created "leader" Mark Rudd, definitely came out second best. Early in the sit-in at Low Library the rumors of a police bust sent Rudd and the NO forces scurrying out the window, while PL members held fast and occupied the building for five more days. Later when Rudd regained heart and returned to the fray, PL's leadership role could not be denied. PL's influence at Columbia and nationally in SDS grew as a result. PLP and the ideas of WSA [Worker-Student Alliance] further gained when [Bill] Epton and other PL community leaders organized the only significant working-class support for the Columbia rebels.
11 The article further reports that: "The demonstrators' response to the Labor Committee members and PL's Jake Rosen was, predictably, enthusiastic, until they were prevented from leaving Central Park by a hand-to-hand ring of parade marshals, principally members of the SWP [Socialist Workers Part] youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance." Although the article does not explain why the YSA tried to block the march back to Columbia, the most likely reason is that the YSA was notorious for enforcing demonstration permit restrictions on peace marches and the march from Central Park to Columbia was unauthorized.
12 Dann and Dillon allude to the early June expulsion of Papert in their chapter on "The Entrenched Leadership":
The Convention did not debate the two main issues presented during the pre-Convention discussion: (1) Alice Jerome's proposals for more democracy within the Party or (2) the proposals by the Lyn Marcus-Labor Committee Faction [the Fraser/Papert Economism or Socialism text HH]. (Two Labor Committee-ites were elected as delegates; one had his credentials summarily revoked by the New York City Committee, while the other [Papert] was expelled by the Convention.) Instead the only debate was over community control and the impending racist teacher walk-out against community control in New York.
13 King, 15.
14 Rudd refers to the Expansion Committee as the "Neighborhood Committee." Underground, 50.
15 Mark Rudd, Underground (New York: William Morrow, 2009), 28. It was because of the sit-in and Papert's role at Low that historian Kirkpatrick Sale in SDS counts Jacobs, Papert, and Rudd as members of the "Action Faction." (432).
16 In their chapter on PL and the student movement, Dann and Dillon describe what happened this way:
Within weeks after [Milt] Rosen broached the strategy of seizing power within SDS, in January 1968 the New York PL student leaders pulled off a coup. At the February 10, 1968, New York regional SDS meeting, the NO [National Faction] was displaced by PL-led forces and a decentralization plan was put into effect that effectively reduced the power of the SDS regional staff. Subsequently the displaced New York regional leaders became the most bitter antagonists of PLP within SDS, the ones who were to lead the "PL-out" demonstration at the 1968 convention [East Lansing HH] in the summer. The New York coup was then promoted within PL as an example for all regions.
17 Rudd, 38.
18 For more on Rudd and Cuba, see the appendix "SDS: Three Puzzles."
19 Mark Rudd, "Columbia: Notes on the Spring Rebellion," reprinted in Carl Oglesby, (ed.), The New Left Reader (NY: Grove Press, 1969), 292.
20 Rudd, Ibid.
21 Rudd, Underground, 43.
22 Ibid., 75.
23 Jerry Avorn et al., Up Against the Ivy Wall: A History of the Columbia Crisis (New York: Atheneum Press, 1969). The title most likely came from the SDS Columbia paper which was known as New Left News until the Rudd group renamed it Up Against the Wall, a title that was in part a veiled reference to Ben Morea's Up Against the Wall Motherfucker group on the Lower East Side.
24 The Mass Strike was reprinted in the June 1968 Campaigner (1/3). The Campaigner also advertises (for 10 cents each) these pamphlets:
1) Sharing the Poverty by Paul Gallagher and Ed Spannaus;
2) Bringing It All Back Home by Robert Dillon;
3) The Mass Strike by L. Marcus (LaRouche);
4) The Knowledge Industry: Bureaucratic Capitalism's University System by Leif Johnson; and
5) An Analysis of the Columbia Strike by Steve Komm.
All were published by the New York SDS Labor Committee for the 1968 East Lansing SDS National Convention.
The Campaigner ran an introductory "New Campaigner Policy Statement" stating that thanks to the transit work and the Columbia Strike, "the majority of the regional SDS 'Labor Committee' discovered its commonality of political method and perspectives." The issue also republishes a talk Leif Johnson gave on the WBAI radio station. The editorial introduction to the June 1968 Campaigner provides some useful numbers. It claims that "within a month" the new grouping has "created over a hundred committed cadre" where there were before only two dozen supporters. As a result, it was decided that "our editorial board should be broadened to reflect" the larger movement "and to make the Campaigner an urgently needed vehicle for reporting the key political lessons of the Columbia Strike."
25 PL correctly viewed the new group as directly competing with its own Worker-Student Alliance "Summer Work-In" policy. The larger anti-PL New York SDS networks may well have backed the creation of the New York Regional SDS Labor Committee in part as a direct challenge to its arch-enemy, PL. The NY SDS leaders knew that PL and the Labor Committee were mortal enemies.
26 For the SLS gathering, see James Simon Kunen, The Strawberry Statement: Note of a College Revolutionary (NY: Random House, 1968), 135-40.
27 For his ideas of a looming currency crisis, LaRouche borrowed heavily from the works of the Yale economist Robert Triffin. On Triffin's ideas, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Triffin.
As for Underconsumption Theory, it was particularly associated with Dave Gilbert. For more, see my separate appendix on the UAW/MF (the Motherfuckers) at http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.HIABChapter2Appendix1UAW-MFHoffman.
28 The Summer Liberation School is mentioned in a 29 June 1968 New York Times story. For an extremely rare photo of bearded LaRouche (as "L. Marcus") teaching a class at the SLS, see https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/bulletin/v05n13-w102-feb-24-1969-Bulletin.pdf. This is a photo that Bulletin took without acknowledgement from an October 1968 PL attack on LaRouche by Rick Rhoads. For more on the photo's origin, see http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.HIABChapter1Appendix2PLHistoryGURU.
30 Immanuel Wallerstein and Paul Starr (eds), The University Crisis Reader (New York: Random House, 1971), 197.
31 Edward Schwartz, Will the Revolution Succeed? (New York: Criterion Books, 1972), 146. Given the amount of money Schwarz reports, my guess is that Ford funded a larger study and that its direct grant to SRU was part of a broader project. Schwartz was interviewed by Ramparts magazine for its expose of CIA funding of the National Student Association:
Meanwhile, on the west coast, two Ramparts editors were talking to Ed Schwartz, NSA's current national affairs vice president. Schwartz, talkative and quick-witted, had been the leader of the liberal caucus in NSA. He was in Berkeley, working as a behind-the-scenes student political adviser-negotiator during the University of California campus crisis precipitated by the firing of Clark Kerr.
It seems a direct, ironic result of Cold War politics that Schwartz had to drop his liberal Berkeley activities and cross the Bay to discuss his organization's cooperation with the CIA. Through a long and tiring discussion that lasted most of one night, Schwartz did not deny NSA's relationship to the CIA. Instead, he pleaded that great damage would be done to the good works of NSA by the revelation of this relationship. As the discussion ended, he muttered something about losing his draft deferment.
Schwartz later became very active in the welfare rights movement, moved to Philadelphia, and became a bitter critic of the Labor Committee-sponsored National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization.
32 Rudd, Underground, 91.
33 Ibid., 93.
34 Papert, New Solidarity, 3.