Library: Appendix B: SDS: Three Puzzles

< Appendix A: The Labor Committee and the Crisis in SDS: From the Original Documents | HIAB | Appendix C: “Weatherfried”: The Short Explosive Life of Ted Gold >

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Puzzle One:


In February 1968 then Columbia sophomore Mark Rudd visited Cuba as part of a larger SDS delegation. For Rudd, it was love at first sight, especially since Cuba was the home of Rudd's hero Che Guevara:

From the first moment I heard about Che, Ernesto Guevara, he was my man, or, rather, I was his. . . . The way other leftists of the early to mid-twentieth century considered themselves Trotskyists or Stalinists or Maoists, I was a Guevarista, a member of the cult of Che. That meant not only putting up multiple posters with Che's image on the wall in my room during college, but whole-heartedly accepting the theory that a small armed group could spark revolution by actually beginning military action. This central idea was transmitted to us via a small book which appeared in 1967, Revolution in the Revolution? by Regis Debray, a young French leftist intellectual who had conducted lengthy interviews and discussions with Che and Fidel Castro.
Foco in Spanish means nucleus, the idea being that the future revolutionary army would grow around the core of the guerrilla band. Along with being called Guevaristas, followers of Che, we in Weatherman and the Weather Underground were also called foquistas. . . . . Like Che, we believed that U.S. imperialism was in the process of crumbling to pieces. The military defeat in Vietnam was the prime indication of its weakness, the key to recognition that live-or-die revolution was already underway within this country and around the world. And Che Guevara's foco theory, certified by Fidel, was the way to push it along.1

When Rudd met the Motherfuckers shortly after he returned to America, he may have seen them as a potential organizational prototype for a functioning urban foco.2 Viewing SDS with the foco model in mind, Rudd may have felt that the collapse of SDS as a national organization might even be something to be desired. From Rudd's blog:

To my eternal shame, I was part of the leadership of Weatherman which scuttled SDS, the largest radical student organization in the country, in 1969, at the height of the war. A small group of less than ten people made this suicidal decision believing that with SDS dead we would be free to build an underground guerrilla army, organized into focos around the country. Each foco, through its exemplary armed actions, propaganda, and contacts with the above-ground mass movement, would attract recruits to expand the incipient revolutionary army's military capabilities . . . .

The Columbia strike only strengthened Rudd's convictions:

Oddly, it was the success of the strike at Columbia University – of all places – that furnished the slim evidence which convinced my friends and me that the foco theory would work in this country. In April, 1968, the Columbia SDS chapter, a small, militant group on campus, took action in concert with a group of black students; hundreds and then thousands of white students joined us in the building occupations and the subsequent strike. Our own militancy was the key, we thought, but we willfully ignored the years of concerted organizing that had gone before at Columbia. . . .
We were trying to tell the dogmatists and fundamentalists among us, those who held rigidly to the theory of industrial working-class revolution left over from Marx in the mid-nineteenth century, to wake up and look at the world.
Meeting Vietnamese fighters in Cuba in February 1968 and getting to know Cubans who were in the process of making their young socialist revolution, strengthened my fierce desire to support these heroic people who had taken on the greatest military power in the history of the world and were actually beating it on the battlefield!

Yet Weatherman chose to ignore much of what the Vietnamese told them:

Fighting cops in the streets and undertaking guerrilla warfare was not what the Panthers or the Vietnamese or the Cubans actually wanted or needed. In the summer of 1969, Weather people had met members of a Vietnamese delegation in Cuba who urged us to unite as many people as possible against the war. Instead we did the opposite, attacking the anti-war movement as not being revolutionary enough and organizing the Days of Rage in Chicago, in October, 1969, as a hyper-militant fight-the-cops action. Fred Hampton of the Chicago Panthers trenchantly criticized the Days of Rage as "custeristic," while the Cubans sent word to us through informal channels that they thought the planned action was a terrible mistake.

Weatherman resisted calls to liquidate SDS into something like a "popular front" centered on CPUSA-backed "give peace a chance" groups such as the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.3 Yet Weatherman was still feted by Havana in spite of the group's rejection of "Pop Front" politics. In his memoir Underground, Rudd recalls that in the summer of 1969 a group of radicals that included Bernardine Dohrn and 13 other Weatherman went to Havana to meet with members of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF). The Vietnamese told them that the antiwar movement had to become "even broader and more committed." Dohrn returned to Canada on a Cuban freighter filled with doubt about Weatherman's political perspective. After her ship landed and she was met by both Rudd and JJ (John Jacobs), they debated whether or not the Weatherman line still made sense:

At an all-night session in the small hotel room, we browbeat Bernardine into conforming to the Bring the War Home line that had been developing all summer. . . . She was torn: In Cuba the Vietnamese had talked with the group about not getting too far ahead of the masses . . . . They had also made it quite clear, she told us, that above all, the Vietnamese needed unity of the American antiwar forces to end the war.
But we were Bernardine's closest comrades, the ones she had united with to split SDS. Our idea of the revolutionary youth joining with the people of the Third World had yet to be tried. We'd been on a roll, and now, as a result of this one trip, she couldn't turn the whole thing around.
It wasn't a fair fight: JJ could out-talk anyone. Bernardine capitulated . . . .4

A Columbia graduate student and Weatherman named Martin Kenner also told Rudd that one of Kenner's connections in the Cuban Mission to the UN said that the Weatherman Days of Rage demonstration in Chicago in October 1969 "was terrible" and that "following the lead of the Vietnamese, the Cubans understood the need for the broadest possible unity of as many Americans as possible against the war, not a fantasy of violent revolution in the streets."5


In Underground, Rudd portrays both the Cubans and the Vietnamese as dead set against violence. Yet the Third World-worshiping Weathermen ignored their advice and embarked on a path of "custeristic" madness that led to the Days of Rage. Yet after the complete failure of that action, Weatherman famously turned even more violent; at its 27-30 December 1969 "War Council" in Flint, Michigan, for example, Bernardine Dohrn famously praised the Manson Family. Yet the Cubans in particular maintained ties to Weatherman throughout this period, although the evidence seems overwhelming that they did so to try to convince the group to abandon its "Guevaraist" fantasy.

Che Guevara symbolized resistance inside the Communist movement not just to U.S. imperialism but to the Kremlin-promulgated model of "peaceful coexistence" with the West.6 The Havana-based African-Asian-Latin American People's Solidarity Organization (AALAPSO), best known as the Tri-Continental Congress, represented the epicenter of Guevarist insurrectionist politics. Weatherman embraced the Tri-Continental Congress's political line. The Tri-Continental network publicly endorsed "urban guerrilla warfare" and celebrated groups like the Tuparmaros in Uruguay and the Montoneros in Argentina; both organizations served as models not just for Weatherman but for the Stasi-aided "Red Army Faction" in West Germany as well. The Tri-Continental network glorified Palestinian plane hijackers and Cuba gave asylum to the Black Liberation Army's political guru Eldridge Cleaver.7 The KGB and its client intelligence services provided members of some terrorist groups with safe haven. The Havana-based magazine Tricontinental even reprinted the Brazilian radical Carlos Marighella's Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla, a Terrorism for Dummies text that offered helpful tips on ambushes, riots, sabotage, assassinations, etc.8 The Minimanual was then reprinted in the Berkeley Tribe, an underground paper under Weatherman political guidance.9 However the Cubans clearly believed that the idea of guerrilla warfare in North America was an ultra-left blunder. Almost certainly, the Cubans were supported in this view by the KGB. If anything, the KGB may well have tried to restrain the Cuban enthusiasm for overseas adventure, although the KGB and its related East Bloc services did give support to violent Palestinian groups such as George Habash's PFLP.

After the disastrous New York town house explosion in March 1970, Weatherman's leadership collective (Bernardine Dohrn/Bill Ayers/Jeff Jones a/k/a "the Eggplant") realized how close they had come to the brink. From then on, Weatherman bombings became strictly "symbolic" to avoid any potential loss of life. Yet Weatherman's initial turn to terror was more than just youthful infatuation with The Battle of Algiers and anger over Vietnam. In Underground, Rudd places the blame for Weatherman policy on Weatherman alone. Yet Weatherman clearly tried to implement the Tri-Continental Congress vision. In short, I believe Weatherman arguably received mixed messages inside the Communist world and that only after the debacle of the townhouse explosion did the leadership cadre finally reject all but symbolic acts of terrorism.10

Thanks to FOIA declassification, it is now clear that Weatherman enormously distorted their claims of a Cuban connection. The evidence seems overwhelming that Weatherman exaggerated supposed Cuban support and suppressed Cuba's strong criticism of Weatherman-style "infantile ultra-leftism." The Cuban opposition to Weatherman is shown in notes taken by Bernardine Dohrn of her arguments with Cuban officials that the FBI seized in a raid on a Weatherman safe house. Dohrn attacked the Cubans for being counter-revolutionary and for failing to provide support for armed struggle in North America. Unwilling to settle for a cheerleader role in CP "peacenik" groups but also after the Townhouse disaster in March 1970 no longer politically willing to follow JJ's lead into mass terrorism, Weatherman tried to split the difference with its new policy of only bombing empty buildings, a kind of "neither fish nor fowl" tactic that soon led it into increasing political irrelevancy.


Weatherman's outlook was crucially influenced by the "extra-parliamentary left" that emerged in New York in the wake of the collapse of the May Second Movement (M-2-M). One faction simply refused to liquidate into PLP, which now became a "party" -- before that it was just a "movement." The dissidents now declared themselves members of a new group, the American Liberation League (ALL).

ALL published Liberation USA out of 5 St. Marks Place. ALL enjoyed close relations with the New York wing of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. The writer John Gerassi, who headed the New York branch of the Bertrand Russell Foundation, issued a statement that read: "We are at one with the efforts and perspectives of the ALL. We hail its formation and look forward to the closest association." A radical Latin Americanist and author of The Great Fear in Latin America, Gerassi had visited Havana and he was a strong supporter of Tricontinental "Guevara" line. His fascination with terrorism even surfaces in his weird 2006 novel The Anachronists. (For an important study of Tricontinental, see Roger Faligot, Tricontinentale (Paris: Editions La Decouverte, 2013,)

Edited by future Weatherman Gerry Long, Liberation USA's staff included future Weathermen John Jacobs (JJ) and James Mellen along with Larry Meyers, FUNY founders Allen and Sharon Krebs, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation member Russ Stetler, who was then with the New York branch of the Foundation before he replaced Ralph Schoenman in London as Russell's personal secretary, Raymond Agostini, Constance Long, Marcia Steinbrecher (the then wife of the avant-garde film maker Hollis Frampton), and Leonard Liggio, an anti-Vietnam War right-wing libertarian, who at the time co-published a journal called Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought. (Liggio also taught a FUNY class on American imperialism.)

The "extra-parliamentary Left" network in New York that ALL reflected objected to the pacifist tactics of groups like the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee and demanded a more confrontational approach to street protests that culminated in the 1967 demonstration outside the Plaza Hotel against Dean Rusk that included SDS members like future Weatherman Central Committee member Jeff Jones as well as Rudd. The M-2-M/Free University of New York world is captured as well in Jim Mellen's extensive interview in Milton Viorst's 1979 book Fire in the Streets.

Puzzle Two:


In his monumental history of SDS, Kirkpatrick Sale arguably makes a monumental goof. In his detailed discussion of 1968, he fails to mention one critical incident: the attempt by former SDS president Carl Oglesby to broker an alliance between SDS and the "Eastern Establishment" via Business International (BI), a firm that published sophisticated economic reports and advised top corporations. Sale's mistake seems especially odd since the debate over Business International inside SDS was hardly a well-kept secret; there was even a long article about BI in New Left Notes.

The SDS-BI talks inspired the discovery of a supposed war between the "Yankee" and "Cowboy" factions of U.S. capitalism. In April 1968, Oglesby wrote a long article in the National Guardian promoting the idea of a deep split in the ruling class between two capitalist factions that he labeled "Yankees and Cowboys."12 He argued that SDS should align with the Eastern Establishment Yankees, who, he argued, were anti-war, pro-Bobby Kennedy and opposed to newer and meaner factions of U.S. capital centered in the South and Southwest.13 In an August 1974 Ramparts article, Steve Weissman reports that in 1968 there was even a "vague proposal" by the Business International network to do "whatever was possible" to help SDS stage "a massive demonstration against Humphrey" in Chicago and one against Nixon in Miami.14 Weissman then recalled that SDS "refused the offer."

In his memoir Ravens in the Storm, Oglesby discusses his negotiations with BI president Eldridge Haynes.15 Oglesby recalls that he first met Haynes at the Gotham Hotel in New York in the spring of 1968. As for Haynes: "He was a Harvard man. He had spent much of his career in the Foreign Service but had left government during the Kennedy years to become a consultant to businesses operating in the "frequently turbulent" countries of the Third World. This work had grown into Business International, Inc. CIA, right?"16

The next day Oglesby took part in a round-table presentation about SDS to a select group that included executives from GM, GE, AT&T, IBM, Ford, the AP, and even "a man from the State Department." Two weeks later, Oglesby helped organize another dialog between BI clients and "half-a-dozen SDSers from Columbia and CCNY. . . . SDS groups without me continued these meetings, sitting down with BI people four times that spring. . . . Haynes and I kept meeting. A little later that same spring, Haynes popped the big question. "Suppose Robert Kennedy were to become a presidential candidate. Do you imagine, Carl, that SDS might be inclined to support him?"17 Oglesby then explains:

I must confess, too, that I'd been scared of heavy-metal politics from the beginning . . . My fears of SDS's leftward inclinations were strengthened by my sense, as of the BI meetings, that an alternative to a politics of rage was within our reach, and that it was essential that we choose it. . . . There was no way for us to achieve our objectives, I thought, without at some point establishing a sotto voce relationship with mainstream grown-ups.18

Clearly Haynes had done his homework and chose his first big SDS contact well.

Oglesby relates a conversation he had with Bernardine Dohrn who, like the vast majority of SDS members, opposed any alliance with BI, "sotto voce" or not. Oglesby says that he told Dohrn that even if "Haynes or the CIA has a secret agenda, I believe it's not to screw us up but to use us in some way to help make RFK president." Dohrn replied: "Well, it could be both, couldn't it? . . . You say this BI's thing is to gather intelligence on Third World countries and sell it to the guys you once denounced as corporate imperialists. I don't understand you, Carl. It seems like you talk one way and act another."19 Oglesby remarked that Dohrn "was probably right in assuming that BI and Haynes were tied to Kennedy and very possibly to the CIA. . . . But who cared? As far as I was concerned, the more the CIA knew about SDS, the better. We had nothing to hide!"

Gene Bradley was one of the participants in a BI-sponsored meeting with Oglesby. A Christian Science devotee, Bradley headed up the International Management Association. In a 2012 article for The Baffler, Maureen Tkacik notes that Bradley's life reads like the history of a "big-time spook."20 In September 1968, Bradley, a vice-president of the National Strategic Information Center as well as a businessman, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled "What Businessmen Need to Know about the Student Left." In his memoir The Story of One Man's Journey in Faith, Bradley reports that as part of his research, "mutual friends" invited him to meet Hoover's top FBI aide William Sullivan, who let Bradley read FBI files on the New Left. Bradley also recalls debating SDS's "Carl Ogilsvie."

Although Bradley was far less enchanted with SDS than Haynes, it is worth noting that Bradley had spent some time in the Kennedy Administration working with the Peace Corps. Sargent Shriver created the Peace Corps after he read a memo from Warren Wiggins, then a Far East deputy director of the International Cooperation Administration (the precursor to U.S. AID). Shriver appointed Wiggins to run the new organization. In 1965-66 when Oglesby served as SDS President, Wiggins asked SDS to help him develop new training programs for the Peace Corps. Some SDS members, including Oglesby, addressed volunteers at Peace Corps training centers in Oklahoma and Puerto Rico.21 Kirkpatrick Sale also reports that when Frank Mankiewicz and Sargent Shriver were in the Office of Economic Opportunity working on the creation of a "domestic Peace Corps" that later become Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), they looked to SDS's ERAP (Economic Research and Action Project) for inspiration. Mankiewicz paid Tom Hayden – then running an ERAP project in Newark called the Newark Community Union Project (NCUP) – to visit Washington and explain NCUP to his staff. Some ERAP members became paid VISTA consultants.22


Another curious example of corporate liberalism in league with SDS involves a wealthy Boston businessman named Ralph Hoagland. In SDS, Kirkpatrick Sale mentions an organization known as the Cambridge Iron and Steel Corporation (CIS). CIS was technically headed by Danny Schechter, a former member of the Northern Student Movement (NSM). A 1964 Cornell graduate, Schechter later pursued an MA at the London School of Economics (LSE). After he returned to Boston, Schechter became CIS's nominal president. Other SDS CIS members included Michael Ansara, Vernon Grizzard, Nick Egleson, Jon Weiner, and future Weatherman Russ Neufeld.23 According to Sale, CIS was begun

with $25,000 which Harvard SDSer Mike Ansara wangled out of liberal Boston businessman Ralph Hoagland, its purpose was to funnel money into various activities with the aim of building a broad adult movement on the left, especially in the Boston area. CIS opened its bank account in February and during the next few months is known to have given $400 to the New York SDS office, $2,000 to Liberation News Service, $3,000 to the Old Mole, $5,000 to the Guardian and a few hundred dollars each to SDSers Linda Gordon, Beverly Kane, Sue Parker, and Ansara himself.24

CIS, it turned out, was a dummy front corporation that Hoagland established to launder money into the radical movement and the anti-PL wing of SDS in particular. A 22 September 1969 article in The Harvard Crimson reported that both the Progressive Labor Party's magazine PL and the Boston Globe uncovered Hoagland's role in the spring of 1969 and that Hoagland even helped finance the creation of a Boston-based "Movement" paper known as Old Mole. According to the Crimson:

In its early July issue on the SDS split, the Mole provided some of the best coverage in the nation. Although the stories were biased slightly to the right in SDS and the history of the Progressive Labor Party contained inaccuracies, on the whole no other news source covered the June SDS convention and the ideological battle behind it as well as the Mole.
The split however has placed the newspaper in an awkward position. The Mole has been financed and directed in the past by right-wing members of SDS. With the right of SDS now in-fighting, the Mole will have to spend more space explaining factional positions to maintain any use as an in-movement news source in disputes. The Mole's credibility among other factions of the Boston Movement was also seriously challenged last spring by the revelation by PL Magazine and the Boston Globe that the Mole was partly financed by a front corporation, Cambridge Iron and Steel, underwritten by a Newton businessman.25

That Newton businessman was Ralph Hoagland.

In August 1969, PLP's magazine PL published a long attack on CIS entitled "Right-wing SDS'ers Get Loot." The article claimed that CIS received $100,000 [not $25,000 as Sale reports] from Hoagland.26 PL said that:

Hoagland is no fuzzy-headed, guilty liberal. He is a very smart and very effective political operative who uses his money to erode militant movements from within by channeling them into programs of "community control" and counter-institution building which are harmless (and often highly profitable) to the interests of the ruling class. During the 1968 rebellions, Hoagland and two business associates organized FUND, "an investment in peace and progress in Roxbury." The purpose of the organization was to raise large amounts of money for the Roxbury-based Black United Front to invest in Black Nationalist counter-institutions and Black capitalist business ventures. So far, over $430,000 has been raised (in minimum contributions of $1000!) and handed over to a special foundation established by the Front.

A Harvard Business School graduate, Hoagland made a fortune when he helped found the Consumer Value Stores (CVS) chain. After the Boston-area ghetto riots following the murder of Martin Luther King, Hoagland and an organization called FUND (Fund for Urban Negro Development) bankrolled the Black United Front, a combination black nationalist-black capitalist organization that went out of existence a few years later.27

PL wasn't the only group interested in CIS's curious financial history. From the 1 March 1971 Harvard Crimson:

Michael Ansara '68, a former SDS leader and one of the founders of the Old Mole, appeared Friday before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security. Ansara was originally subpoenaed to testify before the subcommittee over a year ago. David L. Landau, a Cambridge radical who has also been involved in various movement activities, appeared with Ansara before the subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. James O. Eastland (D-Miss.). Both Ansara and Landau flew to Washington last Tuesday, as the subpoena stipulated. However, their lawyers were unable to appear and testimony was rescheduled for Friday.
In February of last year, the subcommittee – which has held hearings in the past on student radicalism – subpoenaed the records of Cambridge Iron and Steel, a dummy corporation started by Ansara and Landau which channeled money into the movement. At the same time the subcommittee acquired the financial records of New York SDS, Liberation News Service, and two other radical groups.
At Friday's hearing, the only Senate member of the subcommittee present was Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who, according to Landau, "wanted the thing over with. He wished he were somewhere else." The subcommittee asked Ansara and Landau to present all SDS documents they had, and records of their other radical activities.
Ansara and Landau were reluctant to give over the documents, believing that they would lose their right to plead the Fifth Amendment in subsequent questioning. A law made during the McCarthy era states that once a person answers the first question in a "line of questioning," he must continue to answer all following questions.
The subcommittee ruled that Ansara and Landau would retain their right to use the Fifth Amendment. They then surrendered the financial records – which are identical to those which the subcommittee subpoenaed last February.


Carl Oglesby believed that by dealing with what he viewed as the "left CIA," he was helping to end the war.28 But was that really the main objective behind the BI network's attempt to work out some sort of deal with SDS? After Robert Kennedy's assassination, for example, Hubert Humphrey's nomination for president by the Democratic Party was assured. No demonstration outside the Chicago convention hall could possibly change that fact. So why would BI try to encourage one?29

The BI overtures to SDS may have been part of some Machiavellian plot to help put Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger into power. But if one assumes there really was something like a "left CIA," how did it view the prospect of Hubert Humphrey as the next president? In short was the strange spring romance between Oglesby and Haynes just one small example of a far deeper war then being fought out both in the boardroom and in the street over the future course of American liberalism?

Puzzle Three:


One of the popular left-liberal tropes about SDS is the view that the groovy Beatlesque free spirits from the "real" SDS fought a war to the death with the short-haired squares in PL. SDS fellow traveler Andrew Kopkind, for example, described PL in a 30 June-5 July 1969 Hard Times report on the June 1969 SDS National Convention this way: "PL peoples a Tolkien-like Middle-Earth of Marxist-Leninist hobbits and orcs, and speaks in a runic tongue intelligible only to such creatures. It is all completely consistent and logical within its own confines. But that land, at last, is fantasy. The real world begins where PL ends."30 Kopkind then lauds what he calls "the real SDS" for trying to "throw off the PL incubus" and singles out RYM I/Weatherman for special praise.

Yet one of the most important outcomes of the collapse of SDS was the rise of a large-scale American Maoist movement out from under its ruins, particularly on the West Coast.31 New American Maoism first emerged in alliance with the National Office/Action Faction network against PL, as Mark Rudd explains in Underground:

The National Collective was a curious phenomenon in its own right. We merged two distinct factions based mostly on our sworn opposition to PL. The first was grouped around SDS national secretary Michael Klonsky and a political sidekick of his, Noel Ignatin, a Chicago auto workers and a Marxist theorist who had come out of the Communist Party. With a classical Marxist worker orientation, this faction would constitute the leadership of RYM II, when it eventually split off after the June 1969 convention. Mike Klonsky went on to found a Maoist party that became just as dogmatic as PL around the working class as the agent of revolution.
Through the early part of 1969, the National Collective met together roughly every month but at one meeting, out of the blue, Mike Klonsky made a speech concerning the need for a disciplined revolutionary political party; he was talking about classical Marxism-Leninism. To prove some point, he repeated several times, "Stalin is the cutting edge." [Future Weatherman] Howie Machtinger and I shot glances at each other, as if to say, Oh, yeah? That was the beginning of the break with Klonsky, whose adulation of Joseph Stalin made no sense to us. In one of our apartments, we put up a poster of Stalin with a text balloon over his head that read, "Klonsky is the cutting edge."
Soon our faction of the National Collective began meeting periodically without Klonsky, Ignatin, and their allies. In our discussions, JJ and Jim Mellon took on the role of theoretical leaders.32

The SDS National Office/RYM I group may well have been a double minority inside SDS. Many SDS members who showed up for the June 1969 National Convention committed to a specific faction either backed PL or Klonsky's RYM II. Without anti-PL bloc voting by RYM II, RYM I/Weatherman would have been even more marginalized. Other PL foes who voted with the National Office/RYM I were Praxis supporters, counter-culture enthusiasts, independent radicals, etc.; none of them had any serious interest in RYM I "foco"-style politics. One might even view the 1969 convention – at least in part – as a faction fight between two warring Maoist cliques with RYM I/Weatherman stuck in the middle.

At the heart of the clash between RYM II and PL was not Stalin – both factions thought he was just peachy. The key issue was the Cultural Revolution.33 A little-known turning point in the history of American Maoism came in 1966-67 once PL decided that it could no longer uncritically support the Cultural Revolution. The differences between the Chinese and PL's leaders than began to intensify. Since this story is still so little known, I will quote at some length from ex-PL members Jim Dann and Hari Dillon's book The Five Retreats:

PL's relations with China were always one step short of fraternal. The Chinese subscribed to 2,000 copies of Challenge and invited leading PL figures to travel to China. In addition there were meetings with Chinese and Albanian representatives. But the CCP never reprinted any PL documents as they had done with their more closely fraternal parties, such as the ones in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, India. PL, however, was more or less the official Maoist organization in the U.S. during the period 1964-1969. As such, PLP gained the great prestige that came from being associated so closely with the CCP and Mao-Tse-Tung. And PLP circulated the red-book of Mao's thoughts and PL's literature often abounded in quotations from Mao or stories reprinted from the Chinese press.
But there were irritations as early as 1967 when the PL leadership became privately upset that the CCP did not follow PL's anti-Vietnam line.34 At a 1967 NC discussion of the Cultural Revolution Rosen was critical of the Red Guard for breaking with democratic-centralism and suspicious of the leadership in China for not asserting greater authority in the Party. The CCP's repudiation of Liu-Shao-Chi's book, How to be a Good Communist was likewise received poorly since PLP had used the book extensively in internal study groups. The "Cult of Mao" was also criticized at this NC meeting, even though the PL V. 6, No. 4 was replete with ostentatious Mao quotations and the cult of Milt Rosen was flourishing in at least some quarters of PLP. The NC discussion missed the historical essence of the mighty class battles then being fought in China and amounted to unself-critical carping over the weaknesses. Yet the PL leadership was prepared to begin more serious criticism of China in 1968-1969, when they became more aware that the battle in China was for state power. Almost alone among U.S. left groups (save some "Leftist" Trotskyite sects), PLP was coming to the conclusion that the Chinese Left had lost, that Mao was fronting for the Right or at least the Right of Center and without really knowing anything about what was going on in China the PL leadership openly sympathized with the "anarchists" and the "ultra-left" that had, according to press reports, been put down militarily in certain Chinese provinces.
To make this kind of break for PLP would have required considerable courage had not the Chinese on their part displayed increasing coolness to PL in the 1968-1969 period. The CCP had never appreciated PLP's "making more profound" their line of drawing a clear line of demarcation with revisionism. When PL attacked the Vietnamese for negotiating and for accepting Soviet aid the CCP was not of a mind to follow suit. The CCP was intent on avoiding a break with Vietnam and found PL's escalating verbal abuse of the front-line fighters in Vietnam distasteful and helpful neither to China's relations with Vietnam nor to China's image as the bulwark of support for the national liberation movement. Nor did the Chinese ever see the point in PLP's abandonment of the anti-war movement and much to Rosen's irritation, they continued to hail the mass anti-war demonstrations even though they were led by PL's enemies. The CCP took much the same tack with regard to PL's withdrawal from the BLM [black liberation movement – HH]. This was symbolized by the presence of PL's enemy, Robert Williams, in China even though PL had warned the CCP many times that he was probably an agent. Apparently the CCP was aware of PL's sectarian habits and didn't trust this cry of "wolf," even though true in this case.
But it was PL's insistence on the necessity to attack Vietnam for negotiating that the break with China came. In early 1969 two PL NSC [National Steering Committee] members went to China and had an 8-hour meeting with a top Politburo member who at this meeting professed himself and the CCP in agreement with PL on all points except that of the negotiations in Vietnam. The meeting was friendly but the PLers gamely pressed their point. Six months later in Paris PL representatives were told by Chinese diplomats in no uncertain terms: change the PL anti-Vietnam line, or else.
In early 1970 a short shooting war broke out between China and the USSR. In a lengthy editorial Challenge lectured the CCP against negotiating with the USSR on this issue. The Chinese expressed no appreciation for PL's advice and were soon warning fraternal contacts to stay away from PLP. The once warm CCP-PLP relations became now totally hostile, although the CCP never bothered to publicly attack PLP; PLP was free to pursue its own road to international isolation.35

The collapse of PL's relationship with Beijing now opened up the political playing field to a new flock of "anti-revisionists" eager to win Mao's blessings. One of most exotic of them all was Leibel Bergman. A former member of the CPUSA and PL, Bergman moved to China in the mid-1960s and lived in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. After returning to the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s, Bergman created the Bay Area Revolutionary Union (BARU) with Bob Avakian as a Maoist alternative to PL. The U.S.-China Friendship Association now became devoid of PL enthusiasts as well.

Given that the Weatherman soap opera continues to hog the media spotlight, it is not all that surprising that the story of RYM II and the birth of modern American Maoism remains largely ignored. Plus there is something embarrassing about La Chinoise radicals with pop-fan posters of Stalin on their walls, particularly for left-liberal historians and Hollywood screen writers committed to an anodyne version of 1960s history as a clash between the Flower Children and the Blue Meanies. But one of the puzzles of SDS remains the question of just how much of what happened in Chicago in 1969 depended on what began in Beijing in 1966.


1 See Rudd's blog at

2 Rudd encountered the Motherfuckers in March 1968 after his return from Cuba. He was introduced to them by Tom Hurwitz, an Action Faction supporter at Columbia and the son of a left-wing filmmaker. Rudd also attended an SDS NC meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, in late March 1968 and he drove home with some Motherfuckers in the car. On these early connections, see Rudd's memoir Underground as well as my appendix "Tripping with ESSO" at

3 The claim that there was a plan to liquidate SDS into the broader peace movement was raised by the Labor Committee in a statement printed in New Left Notes in December 1968 and refuted by Bernardine Dohrn as "trash." For the exchange, see my appendix reprinted texts from this period of crisis in SDS at

4 Mark Rudd, Underground (New York: William Morrow, 2009), 167-68.

5 Ibid., 156.

6 For more, see John Gerassi, The Coming of the New International (New York: World Publishing Co., [1971]).

7 Some American CP members who lived in Cuba and supported the "popular front" path tried to convince Cuban government officials to greatly restrict or even expel individuals like Cleaver. I believe there was a debate inside Cuba's leadership as well over the merits of the Tri-Continental line as opposed to a popular-front perspective.

The CIA was highly interested in this debate, to put it mildly. The CIA sent in one of its agents named Salvatore John Ferrara into a counter-culture Washington, D.C.-based paper called the Quicksilver Times. Recruited as a political science grad student at Loyola University in Chicago, Ferrara was run by Richard Ober, who served for two decades directly under James Angleton. From Angus Mackenzie's book Secrets: The CIA's War at Home, pp. 31-34:

Ferrera made an ideal domestic CIA operative: young and hip-looking, with a working vocabulary of the Left. Born January 5, 1945, to immigrant parents who owned a Chicago restaurant/bar, Ferrera was raised in a four-story brick house on a tree-lined street, to which he would return on holidays between CIA, assignments. His appearance was reasonably modish, with a Beatles-style haircut.
After earning a master's degree at Loyola University, he had moved to Washington as a doctoral candidate in political science at George Washington University. At Loyola, Ferrera had written his master's thesis on Marxism, with particular emphasis on the conflict between orthodox Marxists and the upstarts Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Regis Debray, who had advocated a leap into guerrilla struggle. Ferrera had read Marx on economics, Castro on revolution, and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap on military tactics and strategy. Probably he was more widely read in the literature of the Left than were many of the dissident writers he was spying on. Ferrera's studies also gave him a fairly astute understanding of ideological divisions within the antiwar movement, divisions that other agents would later exploit to weaken the movement.

Using his radical credentials from Quicksilver Times, Sal Ferrera next went to Paris to spy on former CIA agent Phillip Agee.

Quicksilver Times also praised the 24 August 1970 bombing of the Math Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, even though one graduate student was killed in the blast. A 6 September New York Times article by John Herbors entitled "Some Changes in the Pattern of Violence" cites a Quicksilver Times statement that reads: "We are with our sisters and brothers who gingerly and delicately handle black powder, dynamite, pipes stuffed with matchheads, plastique, home made naphtha, and Molotov Cocktails. They are as much a part of the total struggle as others of us involved in areas of service to the people." Interestingly, this statement appeared at the same time that Weatherman leadership was debating the continuation of the policy of terrorist bombings against people in the wake of the March 1970 Townhouse debacle.

Given Ralph Hoagland's covert financing of Old Mole, one wonders if there might not have been some similar attempt in Boston to control yet another counterculture paper the way the CIA tried to control Quicksilver Times.

8 See

9 See, The Berkeley Tribe arose out of a "strike" by staffers of the Berkeley Barb. A similar development took place in New York when a pro-Weatherman group broke from the Guardian and formed the Liberated Guardian.

10 One group inside Weatherman rejected this political perspective and refused to abandon the "armed struggle" paradigm. They later were involved in the failed Brinks truck robbery in Nyack, New York.

11 The Venceremos Brigade project to send American radicals to Cuba to cut sugar cane was itself part of a broader attempt by Havana to raise its production and become less economically dependent on the East Bloc. Yet many of those most closely tied to Venceremos were anti-Weatherman. See, for example, the strong opposition of the Liberation News Service (LNS) New York faction, a group with excellent ties to Cuba, to RYM I/Weatherman as documented in Blake Stonecker, A New Dawn for the New Left (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012).

For an LNS report contemptuous of the Weatherman "Days of Rage" action in Chicago, see an LNS report on Chicago reprinted in the 16 October 1969 CCNY paper Observation Post and available at The Observation Post ran this insert as well in the main article:

The Weatherman have returned to New York. I encountered them yesterday in Bryant Park. They explained how more "pigs" were sent to the hospital
than Weatherman. They said 57 "pigs" were injured. After continuing the discussion which had started weeks ago as to whether I was doing the right things for the movement, one of the Weatherwomen (an old friend) attempted to use some karate on me. She tried to kick me (you must remember, this is a show of friendship). I grabbed her leg. She then told me she had broken her toe in Chicago, so I let go. A few seconds later, while arguing with six Weathermen at once, a seventh grabbed me from behind, putting me in a full Nelson. We danced around for a few seconds, as I tried to trip him. He then released me. The Weathermen left a little while later. — Howard Reis

(Reis was the Business Manager for the CCNY paper Observation Post.)

12 Oglesby later wrote a book that argued that this supposed split played a key role in American covert politics. See Carl Oglesby, The Yankee and Cowboy War: Conspiracies from Dallas to Watergate (Mission, KN: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, c 1976). Oglesby's "Yankees versus Cowboys" argument, however, is curiously absent in a November 1968 article he wrote for an elite U.S. foreign relations magazine published out of New York called Interplay (2/4). The article (entitled "The New Roman Wolf") and a subsequent follow-up comment published in the January 1969 issue of Interplay (2/6) denounces American multinational corporations in general as the vanguard of U.S. imperialism that is even threatening to reduce Europe to neo-colonialist status. Interplay's publisher Gerard Smith was a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.

13 In so doing, Oglesby echoed LaRouche's 1967 Third Stage of Imperialism pamphlet where LaRouche posited a split between "internationalist" capitalists centered around the major New York banks and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) who were said to oppose more "philistine" networks in groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). For more on Third Stage, see the chapter from Smiling Man from a Dead Planet.

14 See the article at Weissman echoes the same report that James Simon Kunen said he heard at Columbia about BI and ESSO. See my appendix "Tripping with ESSO" at After Oglesby wrote about the BI discussions in New Left Notes, the news spread across the New Left. See, for example, the 30 August/5 September 1968 Berkeley Barb (p. 9) for a note on the BI/SDS talks.

15 From a bio of Haynes:

Eldridge Haynes

1904 – 1976

The founder of Business International, Eldridge Haynes was a pioneer in the postwar development of International Business. Following an initial career in journalism and business publishing, becoming Vice-President at McGraw-Hill in the early 1940s, Mr. Haynes founded a monthly magazine, Modern Industry. His international experience began during World War II, when he made several visits to the United Kingdom to examine how British industry was coping with wartime conditions. After the war, he headed an American Management Associate program under which European industrialists were brought to the United States for management training; he also headed an AMA mission that advised the West German government on the introduction of worker participation in the coal and steel industry.
Foreseeing early that international business would be the wave of the future, in 1953 Mr. Haynes founded Business International, a publishing and advisory firm dedicated to assisting American companies which at that time were making their first direct investments abroad. Starting with a weekly newsletter and a group of major corporate clients, BI grew over the years into the premier information source on global business, with a wide range of specialized publications, a diversified international client base, major offices in New York, Geneva, London, Vienna, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and correspondents throughout the world. In 1986, Business International was acquired by the Economist Group of London.
For over two decades, until his death in 1976, Eldridge Haynes was a valued adviser to executives of multinational corporations based in the U.S., Europe, and Japan; a forceful spokesman for the international business community in its relations with governments around the world; and an inspirational advocate of free trade and international investment as the keys to worldwide economic development and peace.

16 Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm (New York: Scribner, 2008), 170. In 1977, the New York Times reported that Haynes let the CIA use Business International as a cover for its agents. See John Crewdson, "CIA Established Many Links to Journalists in US and Abroad," 27 December 1977 New York Times.

17 Ibid, 172.

18 Ibid., 174-75.

19 Ibid., 175.

20 See

21 In 1968 another former Kennedy Peace Corps administrator, Bill Haddad, ran the U.S. Research and Development Corporation and the Manhattan Tribune. One of Haddad's reporters was Jack Newfield. First recruited into YPSL at Hunter College in the 1950s, Newfield was a staunch liberal anti-Communist; in 1968 he was a member of the left-wing of the Robert F. Kennedy campaign. While still a member of SDS, Newfield wrote A Prophetic Minority, a book-length profile of the New Left published in 1966. Newfield served as a go-between Robert Kennedy and the New Left: on at least one occasion he helped arrange a meeting between SDS leader Tom Hayden and RFK.

22 Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973), 146-47. For more on the overlap between the federal government and the early New Left, see my appendix on Barry Gottehrer at

23 See Debbie Levenson, John Maher, and Fred Stout, "Right-Wing SDS'ser Get Loot: Cambridge Iron and Steel Inc. Exposed" in the August 1969 issue of Progressive Labor (7/2). The article includes a list of CIS members, many of whom were staffers on the Boston radical paper The Old Mole. For an Old Mole attack on PLP that may have inspired PL's investigation of the paper's backers, see

24 Sale, 532.

25 See

26 PL said that Hoagland launched CIS with $25,000 but with an additional $75,000 to follow over the next six months and that the money was given to Mike Ansara, who had begun discussions with Hoagland that dated back at least to August 1968. The money was laundered through CIS and kept secret from the rest of SDS. "Incredibly, none of the directors of CIS – several of whom hold important elected positions in SDS – have ever discussed these activities in SDS." (23)

27 The Black United Front sounds very much like Philadelphia's Black Coalition, which was funded by white businessmen. See my appendix on the Labor Committee and the Black Panthers.

28 Oglesby was no fan of the Labor Committee or PL. From his 1986 letter to the New York Times:

LaRouche Connection to S.D.S. Disavowed
To the Editor:
Some reports on the background of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. wrongly identify his organization, the National Caucus of Labor Committees, as a Students for a Democratic Society spin-off from the 1960's.
As a national officer of Students for a Democratic Society during the middle and late 1960's, I closely watched the process by which N.C.L.C. emerged rather from the Progressive Labor Party, an organization fiercely opposed to S.D.S. and a principal factor in the destruction of S.D.S. in 1969.
Historians writing 20 years from today will surely not conclude from N.C.L.C.'s recent primary victories in Chicago that N.C.L.C. is a spinoff from the Democratic Party or in any meaningful sense a part of it.
Lyndon LaRouche is a parasite formerly of radical and currently of liberal organizations. His pattern of objectives has always been reactionary, whatever the rhetoric used to obscure the fact. It is wholly in character for him and his followers to pretend today to be Democrats, just as they pretended in the 1960's to be S.D.S.'ers.
CARL OGLESBY Cambridge, Mass., April 12, 1986

29 For more, see my appendix on ESSO at

30 See Andrew Kopkind, "The Real SDS Stands Up," at

31 For a somewhat rosy take at American Maoism, see Marx Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (New York: Verso, 2002). Also see Loren Goldner's review of the book at More recently, there is a study of the RU/RCP by Aaron Leonard and Conor Gallagher entitled Heavy Radicals: The FBI's Secret War on American Maoists. The Revolutionary Union/Revolutionary Communist Party 1968-1980 (Zero Books, 2015).

32 Rudd, 145-46.

33 For more background on these obscure events, see

34 PL continually attacked the Vietnamese for wanting to negotiate with "American imperialism."

35 See

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