Appendix C: “Weatherfried”: The Short Explosive Life of Ted Gold
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In the summer of 1968, a Columbia SDS "Praxis" leader named Ted Gold led a Summer Liberation School course on education; he also helped found Teachers for a Democratic Society (TDS). Although Gold taught in a private school, once the UFT strike began on 9 September he strongly denounced the union and called for its picket lines to be crossed by non-union teachers. On 14 October, a Columbia SDS contingent led by Gold marched in favor of community control of the schools and shut down traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. The marchers then joined a protest rally outside the Board of Education demanding the reinstatement of Rhody McCoy as administrator of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school district. The crowd of some 5,000 was "predominantly white and predominantly young," noted a 15 October 1968 New York Times report. Yet less than a year after the strike ended, Gold expressed doubts about the fact that so many community control proponents came from "ruling class" institutions such as the Ford Foundation. In an article in the June 1969 issue of Leviathan entitled "Decentralization: Strategy to Reorganize the Cities," Gold and his co-authors argued that decentralization a la Ford manipulated genuine demands for urban counter-insurgency purposes. The article even briefly praised Albert Shanker for highlighting Ford's role in the conflict.
SDS IMPLODES AND TED GOLD EXPLODES
The Leviathan issue appeared the same month that SDS fell apart. Like his fellow Columbia Praxis leader Dave Gilbert, Gold now migrated from Praxis to Weatherman. On 6 March 1970, the 22-year-old Gold died in an explosion at a Weatherman bomb factory located in a townhouse at 18 West 11th Street in the Village. In the debris, police found 57 sticks of dynamite and four pipe bombs. Gold and his fellow Weather elves were building nail bombs packed with dynamite when the explosion occurred. They had planned to detonate the bombs at a dance that night at the Fort Dix U.S. army base. Other bombs reportedly targeted Columbia's main library and local police stations, all in a madcap attempt to "bring the war back home" and "help" the Vietnamese people, Weatherman style.1 Gold's turn to terror came after Weatherman cadres were subjected to cult-like conditions. From Jeremy Varon's book Bringing the War Home:
Weatherman used "criticism-self-criticism" sessions to keep members unflinchingly wed to the "correct line."
By all accounts, the "criticism-self-criticism" sessions – also called "CSC" or "Weatherfries" – were the most harrowing aspect of life in the collectives. Loosely derived from techniques used by Maoist revolutionaries in China, CSC ostensibly sought to encourage political and emotional honesty and group bonding . . . . More deeply, the Weathermen used the practice to confront and root out their racist, individualist, and chauvinist tendencies. In tone and substance, the sessions were part political trial, part hazing, part shock therapy, part exorcism, and, in a word used by more than one former member, part "brainwashing." At their most intense, collectives singled out individuals for "criticism" and then berated them – five, seven, a dozen hours or more without a break – about their flaws. Though they were designed to break down barriers among members, the effect of the sessions was to enhance suspicions and rivalries within the group and to suppress fears and doubts. . . . [Former Weatherman member] Raulet described CSC as a "vicious tool to disgrace people into accepting collective discipline." Dohrn wondered years later, "I don't know if there's a good Maoism somewhere, but the Maoism that we adopted was stupid and lethal." . . .
In the collectives, conventional comforts – from conversation with old friends to afternoons devoted to idle pleasures – were forbidden as well. Entranced by the Leninist notion of "democratic centralism," Weatherman exalted their leaders, granting them immense power to control – and, as former "cadre" members would later charge – to manipulate those below them. In some collectives, nearly all personal decisions . . . as basic as where one went at any given time, were subject to the approval of the leadership.2
Ellen Frankfort provides more details about Weatherman indoctrination sessions:
Anyone who took criticism seriously was weak, except for self-criticism, which was carried on in the communes, along with karate, rifle practice, and certain deprivation intended to build up discipline. From time to time, for instance, members went for two to three days without sleep or two to three days without food. At other times, group sex was imposed. . . . One night [Weatherman] Diana Oughton's collective killed, cooked, and ate a tomcat, and on another, they went around smashing gravestones in a local cemetery. . . . Group sex, LSD, and homosexuality were ordered as part of a political program to rid inhibitions and to weed out the police.3
Although Weatherman has enjoyed a weird kind of prestige thanks in part to Walter Mitty types in both academia and the press, if Gold and his compatriots had successfully carried out the nail bomb attacks, the consequences could have been politically catastrophic for the anti-war movement as a whole. Gold knew it as well. At the Weatherman "war council" in Flint, Michigan, in late 1969, author Ellen Frankfort quotes Gold as saying: "Well, if it will take fascism, then we'll have to have fascism."4 In the wake of the townhouse disaster, the Weatherman leadership group began to pull back from the brink. As horrible as it sounds, Ted Gold's single greatest contribution to the Revolution may have been getting blown up one cold day in early March.
Excerpts from a June 1969 Leviathan article entitled "Decentralization: Strategy to Reorganize Cities" by Mike Josefowicz and Ted Gold of Teachers for a Democratic Society and Leviathan editor Beverly Leman.
Over the past two years a tremendous struggle has developed around community control and decentralization of the public schools in New York City. It is a struggle that at one time or another has been complicated by artificial alliances between inner city militants and national ruling groups, and by distracting confrontations with local interests, like the UFT, which are systematic of the degeneration of New York City's educational system, but hardly its chief cause. . . . When black rebellions broke out in city after city, the proportions of the social and economic dislocation could no longer be ignored by those national corporations whose interests the city had also to serve. . . .
In 1967, the Ford Foundation began to fund three decentralization experimental school districts: IS 201, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, and the Two Bridges section of lower Manhattan. In each of these districts local community control struggles were pushed aside in the hullabaloo which surrounded Ford's intervention. Initially, community control – or self determination of the schools – had nothing to do with "decentralization" although a genuine form of decentralized authority was implicit in the struggle. . . . At the same time, few of the parents' provisos for community control were incorporated in the subsequent experimental programs; even the Foundation's pilot brief, the Bundy Report, which went furthest in allocating responsibilities to local boards, limited "community control" to administrative reorganization. Thus it was through the imposition of the program of "decentralization" that the course of the community control struggle was rechanneled. To better understand the distinction between community control and decentralization, we might start with a closer examination of the content of the decentralization plan set forth by Ford's Bundy Plan and the eventual process through which the Foundation attempted to co-opt the community control movement. . . .
When the UFT struck the schools, the school administrators and supervisors struck in support. The "bosses" walked out with the workers or decentralization also threatened them with new and unsettling accountability to New York's angriest communities. Most of the supervisors knew that their position in the community would be a tenuous one, for rarely had they done anything for the black or Puerto Rican kids – but collect huge salaries from the city which increased proportionally to UFT gains in collective bargaining.
The UFT leadership also chose the strategy of playing on racial fears. UFT president Albert Shanker continually charged that the demonstration districts were appointing teachers on the basis of race alone, and that anti-Semitic black teaches and community people were harassing and threatening white teachers. Other statements by Shanker, however, suggest that his own analysis of the situation was a more realistic one:
What you have is people on the upper economic levels who are willing to make any change that does not affect their own position . . . What if you said to them "Give 20% of Time, Inc., or U.S. Steel to the blacks?"
Or, in assessing Ford's influence:
Bundy brings his Vietnam experience to the city. He was one of the super hawks, and by the time he came to New York he saw the blacks as a sort of Vietcong who would destroy the city unless we built up loyal cadre as we failed to do in Vietnam.
Shanker himself understood that Ford was attempting both to pacify the communities and to break the UFT, but most of his public statements focused simply on black "extremism" and fanned the anxieties of the rank and file teachers. . . .
The role which the administrative decentralization of the educational system plays in the overall reorganization of the cities is basic, but easily misunderstood unless several aspects of the problem are held in mind. Most important is the near total bankruptcy of urban public schools.
. . . . Decentralization also facilitates social control. Decentralized districts are more manageable and easier to manipulate: dissident groups can be isolated, uprisings quelled, and local police forces brought to occupy a community (as they did in Ocean Hill-Brownsville) without affecting adjoining areas. But to really make the city safe for corporate investments, long-term stability is necessary, and the prospects for this look bleak.
. . . . To date, corporate leaders have aimed at taming militants with large salaries and the promise of political influence through corporate financed community programs. In true colonial fashion, these programs develop a black managerial class to administer the black and brown masses in the ruling interests.
1 PL suggested that Weatherman was a police-supported agent provocateur operation.
2 Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Home (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 58-59.
3 Ellen Frankfort, Kathy Boudin and the Dance of Death (New York: Stein and Day, 1983), 91-92.
4 Ibid., 95.