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CHAPTER THREE: Bad Marx and the “Mouse Crap Revolution”: The Teachers’ Strike, the FBI, and the Labor Committee’s “Expulsion” from SDS

< Appendix B: Mayor’s Man with Bankers’ Plan? Barry Gottehrer, the Invention of the New Left, and the “Eastern Establishment” Plot to Retake New York OR How John Lindsay First Met Allah | HIAB | Appendix A: The Labor Committee and the Crisis in SDS: From the Original Documents >

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A small faction of NY SDS – mostly the PL caucus from Columbia who had converted en masse from Maoism to a cult form of Trotskyism led by a quirky old economist named Lyndon LaRouche – put out a leaflet and public statement attacking community control as a Ford Foundation conspiracy that was designed to defeat true working class consciousness, such as the teachers union.

Mark Rudd, Underground 1

The teachers' strike became for the most imbecilic stratum of SDS leaders the proof of the need to regard the working class as the "main enemy." It was that "big lie" which led directly into the emergence of the Weatherman group as an openly proto-fascist organization during the summer-fall 1969 period and accomplished . . . the destruction and demoralization of SDS by June 1969.

Tony Papert and L. Marcus, "The History of the Labor Committee: IV. The Inside Story of the Columbia Strike."

In the fall of 1968, the SDS Labor Committee was expelled by SDS.

Or was it?

The history of the SDS Labor Committee and the role it played inside SDS has been virtually ignored by historians.2 When the Labor Committee is mentioned, it is often said that the group was expelled from SDS, a claim that I believe is wrong.

The conflict between the Labor Committee tendency and other factions inside SDS was intertwined with the group's public support of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) during the famous fall 1968 teachers' strike in New York City. To help make this complex narrative more clear, I will divide this chapter into two parts. The first section looks more closely at what happened within SDS; part two documents the Labor Committee's role in the 1968 UFT strike.


The role of the Labor Committee inside national SDS begins in June 1968, when members of the newly formed SDS Labor Committee attended SDS's National Convention at Michigan State University in East Lansing. A few months later, brewing tensions over the issue of community control of schools in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville district of Brooklyn exploded into a citywide teachers' strike led by Albert Shanker's United Federation of Teachers (UFT). The Marcusite-dominated NY Regional SDS Labor Committee's decision to publicly support the UFT unleashed a chain reaction of protests that culminated in a so-called "expulsion decree" passed at a National Council (NC) SDS gathering in Ann Arbor in late December 1968. Mark Rudd recalls that the alleged expulsion proved enormously significant to the future of SDS since he claims that it first validated the notion of expulsions on political grounds, a direct contradiction of SDS's "non-exclusionary" clause. Rudd remarks in his memoir Underground:

After much soul-searching, an assembly of NY regional SDS membership expelled the Labor Committee from the organization. Such a move had never happened since 1962, when the Port Huron Statement put forward the twin principles of non-exclusion on the basis of politics and opposition to anti-Communism. In December the SDS National Council upheld the action. I joined the fight for the expulsion, which I felt was necessary to keep SDS from being mistakenly seen as supporting racism. Six months later we SDS regulars would use the New York precedent to throw the Progressive Labor Party out, and the organization would split irreparably.3

I will argue that Rudd and other commentator are mistaken to claim that the Labor Committee was "expelled" from SDS. In my view, the December 1968 NC decision was not to "expel" the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee but to affirm the jurisdictional right of the NY Regional SDS General Assembly to vote to "dissolve" a standing sub-committee of New York SDS, namely the SDS Labor Committee of New York Regional SDS. Moreover, the idea of expelling an organization from SDS on political grounds had already been raised at the June 1968 East Lansing convention – six months before the Labor Committee was "dissolved" – when there was an attempt to expel PL from SDS. Although the motion was defeated, it was, in fact, possible to vote to expel a political group from SDS, but only through a majority decision passed at the group's annual national convention.


Before we begin our detailed examination, readers should understand that there were TWO separate but interlinked SDS Labor Committees inside New York SDS.

The FIRST group was the independent Marcusite political tendency known as the New York SDS Labor Committee; its sister organization was the Philadelphia SDS Labor Committee. This independent political tendency emerged in New York sometime in early June 1968 out of (broadly speaking) the fusion of Tony Papert's PL group at Columbia with LaRouche's CIPA supporters. The Marcusite Labor Committee took its name from the fact that Papert's PL group dominated the Columbia SDS Labor Committee, a subordinate branch of Columbia's larger SDS chapter. When the Columbia PL chapter broke with the national PL leadership, it retained its "Labor Committee" name as a consequence of the fact that Papert's PL group had controlled that particular sub-committee. Hence the name "SDS Labor Committee" reflected the historical circumstances of the organization's emergence as an independent political tendency at Columbia.

The SECOND group, the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee, was a larger grouping that was not purely Marcusite in that it was a recognized sub-group of the General Assembly of Regional New York SDS as a whole. This organization included members of other leftist groups such as the Spartacist League and Workers League as well as unaffiliated SDS supporters. Members of the independent Marcusite SDS Labor Committee held dual membership in the larger NY Regional SDS Labor Committee, just as the Columbia PL group had earlier held membership in the Columbia SDS Labor Committee while also participating in the larger, and politically diverse, General Assembly of both Columbia SDS and NY Regional SDS.

In the summer-fall of 1968, the Marcusite Labor Committee dominated the larger NY Regional SDS Labor Committee, inevitably creating confusion about which "Labor Committee" was which. In the summer of 1968, however, Regional NY SDS was only too happy to incorporate this organization as a recognized branch of the larger SDS network in New York, in part because the group was seen as a useful weapon against PL. Both PL and the Labor Committee, for example, competed with each other in the summer of 1968 in their separate attempts to organize workers in New York's garment center.

At the heart of what follows next is very simple. After the Marcusite-dominated NY Regional SDS Labor Committee publicly endorsed the UFT strike, Regional SDS as a whole was faced with the dilemma of how to respond. They feared that the Marcusites were using their organizational ties to NY Regional SDS to make it appear as if NY SDS as a whole – or at least some significant section of it – agreed with the decision to back the UFT. Because of the SDS "non-exclusionary" rule, they couldn't expel the Marcusite Labor Committee, which existed as an independent organization within SDS. The decision to ban any group could only be legally implemented by a majority vote at an SDS National Convention. However, the NY Regional SDS General Assembly could – and I believe did – vote to dissolve its own Regional SDS Labor Committee, which, after all, had been a recognized subcommittee of Regional New York SDS as a whole.

At the height of the UFT strike in early November 1968, the NY Regional SDS as a whole voted to dissolve its pro-UFT NY Regional Labor Committee and then reconstitute it as a new organization opposed to the UFT and devoid of the pesky Marcusites. Things became even more confusing when the Marcusites simply refused to recognize the right of the NY SDS General Assembly to dissolve one of its constituted sub-groups and the organization continued to employ the "NY Regional SDS Labor Committee" moniker. NY Regional SDS then demanded a ruling at the Ann Arbor NC meeting in late December 1968 to confirm the fact that it indeed had the juridical right to disband one of its own standing sub-groupings and the NC meeting ruled that NY Regional SDS had acted lawfully.


In the wake of the Columbia strike, the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee, now dominated by the Marcusites, began a concerted effort to organize in the New York garment center. During this same time, the newspaper Solidarity was created to aid the organizing effort. It bore the subtitle "Published by the Labor Committee of NY SDS," as it was a sanctioned project of New York SDS as a whole.4 The garment center organizing served, among other things, as a counter to a garment center project organized by PL's SDS Work-in Committee. In the September 1968 issue of Challenge, PL complained that Labor Committee leaflets and its two sheet newspaper Solidarity (one page in English and one in Spanish) offered garment workers a defeatist line in sharp contrast to PL's SDS Work-In Committee.

On 10-14 June 1968, SDS's National Conference was held in East Lansing. A PL/SDS activist named Jeff Gordon attended the meeting and later reported on it in the October 1968 issue of Progressive Labor. Gordon knew the Labor Committee well: in the spring of 1968 he regularly attended meetings of the SDS NY Regional Transit Project. In his article "SDS: An Analysis," Gordon took note of the newly formed Marcusite Labor Committee, writing: "Another proposal was called 'Proposal for Building Labor Committees.' It came from the 'Philadelphia and New York Labor Committees.' (There are two labor committees in N.Y. 'The New York Labor Committee' is one of them.)" 5

The full text of the SDS Labor Committee proposal was published in the 24 June 1968 edition of New Left Notes. It begins:

SDS should encourage the formation throughout the country of committees through which radicals can work with and propagandize workers and poor people. . . . We are not suggesting that organizing and propagandizing among students, black people, and the unorganized and the most oppressed should be de-emphasized; it is at this point still the most important aspect of our activity. . . . But at some point soon, the mass actions of these people must begin to find support among the increasingly discontented white workers, even be joined by them.

After a section critiquing localized struggles, the proposal continues:

The following are lines of action (general and specific) with this aim which the New York-Philadelphia Labor Committees have begun and will continue this summer. We recommend things of this nature as the activity of other labor committees formed; we do not suggest them as ready-made projects. The issues and actions effective in each city and each situation can only be determined by research and experience.

The text then describes the role of the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee in 1) leafleting around transit hikes in New York City; 2) leafleting and holding rallies in the New York garment center; 3) using the Columbia Summer Liberation School as a forum to debate ideas; 4) conducting ongoing research with special attention to upcoming strikes, housing campaigns, et cetera; and 5) rallying support for strikes among both striking workers and the community by propagandizing about the potential links between the interests of striking workers and those of other groups within the community. The proposal concluded by endorsing "the implementation section" of the PL-sponsored Student Labor Action Project (SLAP):

with the following addition: 1) that the editorial policy of the proposed newsletter be absolutely non-exclusive with respect to contributions from committees so as to encourage development of revolutionary ideas," since "at this stage of our movement, nobody has all the answers"; and 2) that the coordinating office of the proposed labor committees "be in New York, where the continuing effects of the Columbia strike provide the ideal conditions for the works of student-labor committees.6

In his article Gordon gave PL's answer. He claimed that the proposal "attacks the growing on-the-job militancy of millions of workers. On this they [the Marcusite Labor Committees] see eye-to-eye with the 'new working class' people." Gordon stated that by opposing factory colonization, the proposal would "attack and try to discourage workers from fighting on the job against the boss. This is the kind of worker-student misalliance the boss would support." He continued:

Workers are powerful when they fight at the point of production where they can stop production. . . . This proposal [by the SDS Labor Committee] takes a classical "economist" position, holding that the major thing students can bring to workers is economic expertise and claims to show workers that they [the Labor Committee] know how to run the system better than the bosses so that the workers will say "If that's socialism, then I'm a socialist."
Easy, huh!

Neither the Labor Committee draft nor the proposals from PL were officially approved at East Lansing. According to Gordon, the SDS National Office (NO) and New Working Class (NWC) groupings deliberately placed any debate about the proposals near the end of the week-long agenda, knowing that there would not be enough time for them to be heard. Yet the NO/NWC caucus couldn't prevent the formation of workshops around these ideas, and the convention agreed that the proposals would be "first on the agenda" at the SDS National Council meeting that fall in Boulder.7


The most important event at the June 1968 East Lansing convention, however, was the defeat of a National Office-backed attempt to expel PL from SDS, which a majority of convention delegates opposed. The Labor Committee delegation at East Lansing also supported PL's right to remain in SDS. Labor Committee member Paul Milkman even penned a 23 June 1968 protest letter to the Guardian over what he saw as its skewed coverage of the meeting.8 From Milkman's letter:

Jack A Smith's description of what occurred at the SDS national convention in East Lansing is an insult to all those who attended.
Smith's assertion that the two main groupings in SDS are the "New Left" – centering around the Praxis grouping – and the Progressive Labor Party would exclude large numbers of serious students from ever joining SDS.
What occurred at the convention was that an alliance formed by sections of the new working class group and the anarchists continually disrupted the plenary session with a non-political attack on PL members and others with whom they disagreed.9
It is no accident that the adherents of Praxis ideology – usually the right in SDS – should be able to unite with the anarchist ultra-leftists. Ultra-left groupings are traditionally syndicalist (whether the demand is for control of the local factory or the streets), and syndicalist thought is the counterpart to local community control, the main strategy of the Praxis group. This philosophy, which fragments the movement into isolated losing struggle, is the opposite of the Marxist approach, which tries to unite different sectors of the population around concrete alternative programs. Local control in practice means more Ocean Hill-Brownsville parents, teachers and students fighting it out among themselves.

Milkman then wondered:

And how can PL be accused of wanting to take over SDS when it ran no one for any of the national secretaries and just one person for the NIC (National Interim Council, national "political" body of SDS)? What happened was that Tom Bell, under the guise of asking Bernardine Dohrn a question about her future role as inter-organizational secretary, accused PL of killing his resolution, and invited the anarchists to start their "PL Out" routine. Anyone sane had to agree with [PL's] Jeff Gordon – political exclusion would be the death of SDS.


In the wake of the Columbia strike, CIPA – until then the publisher of the Labor Committee's theoretical magazine The Campaigner – now dissolved. In his 1974 Conceptual History of the Labor Committee LaRouche writes: "During late May and early June of 1968, the New York and Philadelphia Regional SDS Labor Committees had been fused as publishers of a magazine, The Campaigner, which the CIPA group had begun publishing during January of that year."

Yet as the Labor Committee grew more united, deeper divisions in SDS over strategy and tactics grew increasingly sharp at Columbia that fall. On 27 September 1968, just as school resumed, the New York Times reported on a 500-person SDS demonstration called to protest Columbia's real estate polices. During the protest, the police arrested five radicals, among them Labor Committee member Ed Spannaus.10 During the demo, some "Action Faction" supporters tried to smash windows at Low and damage other school property. These acts of random destruction prompted an SDS gathering the next day, where a prominent Columbia Labor Committee supporter named Paul Rockwell and PL's Michael Golash, another Columbia SDS activist and head of the SDS Expansion Committee, attacked the Action Faction's glorification of random mayhem.

A 28 September 1968 New York Times article on the Columbia meeting begins:

A proposal by the Students for a Democratic Society urged a meeting of Columbia University students last night to shun "terrorism, sabotage and window-busting for the hell of it" in favor of a community action program. . . . The reference to "window-busting for the hell of it" would presumably censure at least part of Thursday night's student actions on the campus when windows were broken and rocks thrown at Low Memorial Library. The demonstration was protesting the eviction of tenants from neighborhood buildings owned by Morningside Heights institutions. . . .The organizer and director of last night's meeting was Paul Rockwell, a graduate student of philosophy at Columbia and an SDS leader.

Supporters of the anti-Action Faction wing of Columbia SDS submitted a paper entitled "Notes on Strategy." Here are excerpts from the paper, as cited in the Times:

It is a grave error . . . to use an essentially military tactic in a situation that is not military but social. There is an excessive fascination with guerrilla war. A military approach to a struggle is useful only when you already have won over large masses of the population. Terrorism, sabotage, gimmicks, individual acts that fool the cops, window-busting for the hell of it – all these non-mass tactics separate you from the movement.
The significance of the strike was that it was a mass movement, not a minority act. We lost militarily in a sense, when we were finally hauled out of the buildings, but we won socially. We drew thousands to the side of revolution. . . . Many of our people have romanticized the guerrilla war of Che and his comrades and applied that model to an inappropriate situation.

The critique of Rudd and JJ could not have been clearer.

Golash argued that SDS would "probably need more marshals to hold down individual acts that tend to discredit the whole movement." For its part, the Labor Committee promoted the organization of a larger anti-eviction movement in alliance with the Community Action Committee (CAC) of SDS, most likely the new name for the old Expansion Committee that Golash had led. In a December 1968 Campaigner article on the state of SDS, the Labor Committee wrote about this time:

during the summer, SDS split into Rudd's "action faction" which did little besides waiting for weekly demonstrations at which they could scream at "pigs," and the Labor Committee and CAC, which both worked (as did PL) in the community against Columbia expansion.
Tensions grew as the Labor Committee made criticisms, now widely accepted, against "mindless activism" and the unwillingness of student radicals to be concerned with the material problems facing the mass of America's working people. . . . A strange coalition of Praxisites . . . the "action faction" . . . and PL . . . came together on their only common ground – that of isolating and destroying the Labor Committee. Besides attacking the Labor Committee, Columbia SDS has accomplished little this fall.

The bitter disagreements around the "Action Faction" line spilled over into 1969, when Mark Rudd tried to recruit new Weathermen at Columbia. Kirkpatrick Sale reports that on 25 September 1969 – almost a year to the day after the "Action Faction" tried to trash Low – Rudd returned to Columbia and gave a talk in which he berated students for being cowards and told them they must now be prepared to pick up the gun:

After some 15 or 20 minutes of this, Paul Rockwell, a short stocky non-Weatherman SDSer got out of his seat and moved toward the front of the room, declaring that Rudd had had his turn and now he wanted to speak. Rudd took two menacing steps toward Rockwell, hulking over him, but Rockwell just barreled ahead, slammed Rudd against the podium, pushed Rudd's fists away, and turned to face the audience. Rudd's face was a picture of stunned fear, all his rhetoric having done nothing to overcome his ingrained middle-class unfamiliarity with, and anxiety about, violence. He stood there a moment, shrugged, and then slunk off to join his friends to one side. The macho mood was dissipated; no one seems to have joined the Weather ranks that night.11

Meanwhile, a September-October 1969 Campaigner editorial entitled "SDS: Beyond the Grave" returned to what happened at Columbia the year before:

in mid-May of 1968 . . . Rudd et al., who had been taken in by their own press clippings, rearranged their recollections of how the Columbia Strike developed at the interface of campus and ghetto processes, and imagined that they had created the 1968 strike by some magic formula called "confrontation politics." So, they engaged in one debacle after another throughout 1968-69, and still have not discovered that perhaps their delusion was in fact a delusion. Not accidental: Rudd and his ilk are not the slightest bit concerned to secure victories as rational men and women understand that term. It is what Rudd et al. imagine to be the boldness of the confrontation (exactly as Sorel, Mussolini's theoretician, presented the point) that concerns them; it is the mythos of "purgative violence," not the fruits of struggle in a practical sense. If this were not the case, one would have difficulty in explaining (to say the least) how Rudd, who is associated with a year of one silly debacle after another during the entire past year, should be elected to the leadership of his national confederation! An army which selected its generals on such a basis would be rightly deemed outright suicidal.

For all their deep political differences, PL and the Labor Committee strongly rejected the Action Faction's embrace of violence. The UFT strike, however, shattered any further working understanding between the two groups and even drove PL to align with its Action Faction foes against the Labor Committee.


On 9 September 1968, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) – with the support of the rest of the organized labor movement in New York – went on strike in protest of what the union saw as the arbitrary removal of teachers in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school district in Brooklyn, New York. The strike would not end until 17 November 1968, with the union largely victorious, although UFT leader Albert Shanker later served a brief prison term for violating the Taylor Law.

Early on in the strike, the Marcusite-dominated NY Regional SDS Labor Committee issued a statement of support for the union. Shanker then remarked at a press conference that "even SDS" backed the teachers. Shanker's comment enraged and embarrassed the rest of NY SDS, the majority of whom believed that the largely Jewish teachers' union was a deeply racist organization out to deprive black children of a future. Around this same time, the first attempts by NYC SDS to delegitimize and disrupt the Marcusites began. In his blog Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories, Bob Feldman recalls:

In Fall 1968, the Albert Shanker-led United Federation of Teachers struck in order to try to sabotage any Board of Education plans to concede control of NYC public schools in the Black community to African-American community control boards. New Left SDS people supported the demand of African-American activists for community control of their neighborhood schools, seeing it as a just demand for Black self-determination, and defined the UFT strike as a reactionary, racist action. PL and Labor Committee members within SDS chapters, however, supported the UFT strike and argued that it represented a justified struggle of labor against Ford Foundation and white corporate establishment-sponsored "bourgeois black nationalism."

(In fact, PL opposed the UFT strike.12)

Feldman continues:

PL and Labor Committee people within SDS chapters also opposed New Left SDS people on the issue of fighting for open admissions to places like Columbia and CUNY for African-American, Puerto Rican and white working-class people. New Left SDS people argued that it was democratic to demand that open admissions be established in the "bourgeois university." PL and Labor Committee people, however, charged that it was reactionary to fight for open admissions to the "bourgeois university" because, once admitted, the African-American, Puerto Rican and white working-class students would "become bourgeoisfied."13

Feldman, I believe, errs again when he presents PL and the Labor Committee – two organizations he clearly despises – as holding similar views on the issue of open admissions.14 He then continues:

Within Columbia SDS, the ideological division between the white New Left response to the UFT strike and the open admissions demand and the PL/Labor Committee response led to more demoralizing faction-fighting throughout the fall. But off-campus, Teachers for a Democratic Society [TDS] members, led by Ted [Gold], taught in African-American-controlled "freedom schools" during the UFT strike.

In Underground, "freedom school" teacher Mark Rudd writes:

That fall one of the biggest issues in New York City was the public-school teachers' strike against decentralization of the school board and community control of the schools. In essence the teachers' union, led by former socialist Albert Shanker, was on strike against the parents, especially in the black and Latino neighborhoods, who were demanding a say in their children's education. The union vehemently opposed this perceived loss of teacher power, and the fight took on a strong racial content, since the union was predominantly white.
New York City was openly polarized in a way most of us young people found horrifying: this was, after all, the liberal urban North, not the racist, segregated South. I was particularly upset that many of the white teachers and the union leadership were Jews. During that strike I sadly understood that we were experiencing the end of the Jewish-black liberal coalition that had prevailed since the early civil-rights days. It was also the beginning of a hard right turn for mainstream New York Jews.
Most of the Left, including SDS, supported the parents' demands for community control as part of the larger antiracist battle. SDSers from Columbia and other chapters would ride a subway out to Brownsville, Brooklyn, very early in the morning to join black parents in keeping a junior high school open against the striking teachers. I myself taught in a strike-breaking liberation school in West Harlem. I vowed at that time that I'd never join Shanker's racist union, the American Federation of Teachers (a vow I would break in 1990 when I helped organize the teachers' union at my community college).15


On 24 October 1968, Rhody McCoy – the controversial administrator of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville experimental school district – spoke to an overflow crowd of around a thousand people on the Barnard campus and defended his actions. A few days later, on 30 October, the anti-Labor Committee forces in Columbia SDS renewed their attack on the Marcusites. A front-page article in the 31 October Columbia Spectator by Louis Dolinar reports that by a 64-12 vote the General Assembly of Columbia SDS elected to "dissociate" itself from the Labor Committee over its support for the UFT. According to the Spectator story, the General Assembly "disbanded" the current Labor Committee as part of the Columbia chapter and called for the creation of a new Labor Committee that would "implement rather than obstruct" the majority decisions of the General Assembly. The General Assembly then asked that the New York "regional headquarters of SDS dissociate its name from the Labor Committee."

Dolinar notes that the split in Columbia SDS over the strike had begun "several months ago" and had resurfaced two weeks earlier after the General Assembly voted a resolution that attacked the UFT and accused it of racist policies. The resolution then endorsed community control of schools. At the next General Assembly gathering following the vote, the Labor Committee circulated a pamphlet signed by the "SDS Labor Committee (NY Students for a Democratic Society)" which again supported the UFT and again attacked community control. In response, the increasingly frustrated General Assembly passed its own resolution warning that the Columbia Labor Committee "could consider itself 'disbanded' from SDS if the group released their position paper with the SDS name on it." Although Dolinar doesn't mention the name of the pamphlet, it seems almost certain that it was Papert ["Tony Perlman"] and LaRouche's The New York School Crisis, which appeared that October in a mass edition.

In response, the Labor Committee chapter at Columbia now submitted a new five-page paper claiming that the General Assembly resolution was "an effort by one group (within the Columbia chapter) to censor the activity of another independent SDS organization." This text so infuriated the rest of the SDS chapter that, according to the Spectator, at the 30 October meeting "several members of SDS burned copies of the Labor Committee paper."


The text that lit up the room was reprinted with a new introduction and explanatory end notes in the December 1968 issue of the Campaigner as "Police Socialism in New York." From the introduction:

During October, various New York City SDS organizations, especially the Columbia University chapter and the regional office, were subjected to continuous, intense outside pressure from certain government agencies and private foundation projects. These sources demanded that SDS take steps to either gag or disband the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee, whose persistent leafleting and organizing had dealt a few small tactical defeats to Mayor Lindsay's strike-breaking organization in the New York City school crisis. SDS groups were threatened by the "poverty" organizers: Unless you gag the Labor Committee, we'll denounce SDS as "white racist" throughout the black community. "Poverty" agents wasted three weeks and uncounted man hours attempting to provoke a split within the Labor Committee itself, scoring our loss of exactly one promising newer member. This intervention by government agents into the internal affairs of SDS produced the following results. The Columbia chapter made itself the laughingstock of the university by "disbanding" an organization (the Labor Committee) over which it had no authority.

The Labor Committee statement then challenged the legality of any "expulsion":

The steering committee of the Columbia University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society asks for the disbandment of the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee. This amounts to the expulsion of its members if they continue to publicly express their views. The steering committee's action comes because these members have continued to do so despite a previous, illegal gag ruling by the Columbia chapter.
This proposal, which in effect demands SDS consensus on the school issue, constitutes an effort by one group (within the Columbia chapter) to censor the activities of another, independent SDS organization. The original gag motion and present expulsion proposal are, moreover, absolute violations of the "non-exclusionary" provisions of the national SDS constitution and of the actual practices of SDS since its founding. The most recent national conference of SDS [the June 1968 East Lansing meeting – HH] voted down a proposal by the same political tendency attacking the Labor Committee today, to violate the "non-exclusionary" rule by expelling Progressive Labor Party members.
Some opponents of the Labor Committee at Columbia have already referred to the questionable legality of such attempts to silence it. Since the last national conference voted down the Jared Israel [PL] proposal (to strengthen the organizational powers of the regional offices), neither the Columbia steering committee nor the NY regional office have any power to curb the political activities of the SDS Labor Committee. Unless the Labor Committee should elect to resign from SDS under present pressures (which it has no intention of doing), it will continue to publicize its views as an SDS organization up to the point that a national conference is convened to expel it. The Labor Committee is absolutely not going to take down its SDS label because of any number of the sort of resolutions being put forth by its political opponents.16

"Police Socialism in New York" next responded to charges that the Labor Committee was "racist" to support the UFT strike. The pamphlet claimed that the same Ford Foundation that designed hamlet pacification programs in Vietnam in league with the CIA had now launched a domestic version of the same policy and dubbed it "community control." The pamphlet then wondered why SDS could attack the policy in Vietnam but support the same policy in New York City:

The reason for that SDS inconsistency is that most members have swallowed hook, line and sinker the line that the "community control" movement is some sort of spontaneous upsurge of the black community. If one element of race prejudice is the inability to distinguish one black face from another, then the majority of SDS must be suspected of it right now. They apparently would not know the difference between a Mobutu, Kasavubu, Tshombe and the Lumumba murdered by these black-faced imperialist agents, or between Malcolm X and his black-faced assassins.17 Therefore Columbia SDS members have been susceptible to pressures by certain government agents, such as Kenneth Clark's son.

If that wasn't enough to make the other SDSers reading the pamphlet apoplectic, "Police Socialism" argued:

Finally, on this "CIA"-sponsored idea that the teachers strike is racist. White race prejudice is, of course, endemic to every organization of white working people. It is based on the lie that the better conditions of life of white working people depends on black oppression. Through this lie the ruling class channels black struggles into attacks on the labor movement, attacks whose inevitable result is a fomenting [of] really virulent white racism. Any socialist fights racism by exposing the lie – the lie that white workers' better conditions depend upon oppression of blacks. The only way to destroy the power of racism in this country is to convince both white workers and black oppressed that it is only the ruling class that benefits from the exploitation and oppression of both, and that it is the ruling class that consciously attempts to set white against black and vice versa, as the government and Ford Foundation agents have done in the New York school crisis.
The Labor Committee is the only section of New York SDS actually fighting white racism in this struggle; every other section of SDS is actually working to increase white racism. The Labor Committee is showing teachers and other trade-unionists that it is the police socialist poverty-workers, not black ghetto people generally, that are Lindsay's agents in this struggle; only the Labor Committee in New York SDS is urging struggles for housing, jobs, etc., in the real interests of ghetto victims.
This, in sum, is the situation that faces us. The two main radical currents of the present movement, the anti-war and Wallaceite movements, have threatened to destroy the old two-party system. The day of old-style liberal imperialism is ending; the future of political movements belongs to the radicals, alone. The shape of this country during this next decade will depend upon which kind of radical organizers succeed in doing the most, and best organizing.
The ruling class has responded to this reality in its own pragmatic way. It has taken the lead in buying up virtually every black or Spanish-language-speaking organizer as soon as he appears on the scene. The largest force of full-time "radical" organizers in history is now busily engaged in organizing for police socialism. If their present hegemony is allowed to continue, fascism may be the result. Unless you want fascism to win in your lifetime, your responsibility is to begin fighting on two fronts: to expose and destroy police socialism, and to begin seriously organizing our independent non-government-sponsored-and- controlled revolutionary movement. If you take a race approach to the present crisis, you make yourselves dupes of police socialism; if you take a class approach to this crisis, you put yourselves on the side of socialism and against the police socialists of Ocean Hill-Brownsville.


On 7 November the Spectator published an op-ed piece by Tony Papert entitled "Community Control – A Better Idea" defending the Labor Committee position. Papert began: "The reports of our disbandment, to paraphrase Mark Twain, are greatly exaggerated." Neither the Columbia chapter nor any SDS group "short of our national convention" can dissolve the New York SDS Labor Committee, he explained, "since the SDS constitution would have to be altered to do so." Therefore the Columbia vote was meaningless.

Papert spent the rest of his article denouncing community control and pointing out how elite establishment papers such as The New York Times supported it. He labeled this "establishment radicalism (or 'police socialism' as it used to be called in Europe)." Papert further claimed that "Mayor Lindsay's conscious staging and promotion of racial conflict in this city merits at least as much attention as radicals have given to the antics of George Wallace. . . . it is the task of radicals to destroy the credibility of the Ford Foundation's police socialist movement and to put a real one in its place."

To briefly anticipate my coming argument, I believe that Papert derided the vote at Columbia as "meaningless" for a good reason. The Columbia General Assembly, as far as I can tell, acted legally when it disbanded and reorganized its own sub-committee. Papert, however, obfuscates that fact by correctly claiming that Columbia SDS had no legal authority to disband, dissolve, or expel an independent organization – the New York SDS Labor Committee – because such a decision violated SDS's non-exclusion clause.

The Action Faction wing of Columbia SDS would have gladly voted to exile the Labor Committee to the nearest Arctic ice floe. But I believe Columbia SDS as a whole voted to dissolve the "Columbia Labor Committee," a subcommittee of the General Assembly of Columbia SDS. They then voted to replace this dissolved subcommittee with a new subcommittee. In other words, they legally restructured Columbia SDS. At no time did they "abolish" or "expel" or "dissolve" the Marcusite Labor Committee as an independent political organization affiliated with SDS nationally. If it had such powers, the Columbia SDS General Assembly would have expelled PL years ago. Given that Papert had run Columbia's PL chapter, he certainly knew the rules about "non-exclusion." Acting, I believe, as a defense attorney for the Marcusite Labor Committee, Papert avoided admitting that the General Assembly of Columbia SDS had, in fact, acted legally in disbanding its own Labor Committee.

However it is possible that Columbia SDS voted both to dissolve the Labor Committee subcommittee of Columbia SDS (clearly a legal decision) and to expel the Marcusites SDS group as well. If so, the later vote clearly was illegal by all the rules that governed SDS. If may be that Columbia SDS held a vote sometime earlier that October to dissolve its relatively autonomous subcommittee and then later voted for an obviously illegal expulsion at the very end of October. Or it may be that both the Action Faction members of Columbia SDS on the one hand and the Labor Committee on the other misinterpreted the vote for their own reasons and claimed that Columbia SDS had in fact "expelled" the Labor Committee when Columbia SDS actually voted to "dissociate" itself from the group as reported in the Spectator article.18


The crisis in New York SDS that began at Columbia in mid-October ended in Ann Arbor in late December. But did it lead to the expulsion of the Labor Committee from SDS?

Again I believe the answer is no.

First, the Labor Committee as a separate "Marcusite" faction inside SDS was not expelled. Expulsions on political grounds could only be carried out at a National Convention. As we have already seen, an attempt to banish PL was introduced at the 1968 East Lansing SDS National Convention and voted down. Nor did the Labor Committee deny the right of SDS to exclude any group based on a majority vote at a national conference. In short a national conference – and only a national conference – could vote to override the "non-exclusion" clause. The final 1969 SDS National Convention in Chicago, in fact, witnessed both PL and RYM trying to expel each other based on just this rule.

So what did happen in 1968?

I think the answer is fairly simple. In October 1968, Columbia SDS reorganized its chapter and disbanded its local branch of the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee. A report in the 25 November 1968 New York Times states that in October Columbia SDS "decentralized into seven relatively autonomous committees or 'raps' or research-action projects. No one was elected to succeed Mark Rudd, now suspended from Columbia, as SDS chairman." In the rearrangement, the old NY Regional SDS Labor Committee on campus was disbanded. As far as I can tell, there was no vote to expel the independent Marcusite Labor Committee as a separate organization. Instead, the anti-UFT majority wing of Columbia SDS built an organizational firewall around the Marcusites so that the chapter wouldn't be tainted with the charge that Columbia SDS supported the teachers union. To drive the point home, Columbia SDS passed a special resolution dissociating itself from the Marcusite group's position on the UFT strike.

That said, it may be well be true that some members of the anti-Labor Committee wing of Columbia SDS claimed that they had "expelled" the Labor Committee as an organization from Columbia SDS. I believe, however, that Columbia SDS voted to dissolve one of its recognized sub-committees controlled by the Marcusites and then passed another resolution in late October publicly dissociating the chapter from the Labor Committee's position on the UFT strike.

Yet the Columbia vote was just the vote of one local campus chapter inside NY SDS. It had no binding influence on the NY SDS Regional Labor Committee or NY SDS as a whole. Therefore when the Regional SDS General Assembly convened in early November shortly after the Columbia vote, the anti-Labor Committee majority bloc followed Columbia's lead and voted to dissolve the Regional New York SDS Labor Committee as a recognized Regional New York SDS affiliate. Again, this decision did not mean that NY Regional SDS suddenly and idiosyncratically violated the "non-exclusionary" clause. An article in the December 1968 Campaigner comments on the October regional meeting this way:

In an effort to save the "face" of Columbia anarchists, a regional meeting was called by anarchists and Progressive Labor Party members in NY SDS, which "disbanded" an organization over [which] they had absolutely no control. The regional group then proposed to create a counterfeit Labor Committee which would attempt to embarrass the real Labor Committee by circulating scurrilous, anti-labor leaflets in its name! Less subtle SDS anarchists at the same meeting proposed that Labor Committee members be beaten up and their offices broken into and wrecked.

The now legally dissolved Marcusite NY SDS Regional Labor Committee, however, contested the validity of the ruling and simply refused to disband.

The crisis in NY SDS caught the attention of the New York Times. A 25 November 1968 Times article tried to sum up what happened this way:

SDS has also had internal problems. A long-simmering feud came to the surface recently when the organization disbanded its militant Labor Committee, many of whose members belong to the Progressive Labor Party, often described as "Maoist."19 The final break came over a Labor Committee resolution attacking the New York City school decentralization plan as an attempt to divert the energies of minority groups from crucial economic issues to the relatively unimportant area of education.20 Most members of SDS were incensed. Two hundred of them had recently marched more than five miles to the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers on Park Avenue and 20th Street to demonstrate in support of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville experimental district in school decentralization.


Precisely because the Marcusites challenged the validity of the New York ruling, the logical next step for both sides was to appeal for a confirmation of the decision to the next highest body in SDS. This is how the dispute made its way to Ann Arbor.

The continuing turmoil in New York SDS is evident in an article Bernardine Dohrn, then SDS inter-organizational secretary, wrote for the 18 December 1968 edition of New Left Notes that appeared on the eve of the Ann Arbor NC gathering. Dohrn wrote:

This fall the Labor Committee issued leaflets in the name of SDS supporting the teachers' union in the NY schools crisis. Columbia SDS and the NY regional assembly had condemned the racist teachers' strike and demanded that the Labor Committee not continue to produce pro-teachers' union leaflets in the name of SDS, contrary to the position taken by the membership.
When the leaflets continued, the Columbia chapter "expelled" the Labor Committee to publicly disclaim leaflets claiming to represent the position of SDS. Neither individual members nor the ideas of the Labor Committee were ousted from participation in SDS. The "expulsion" was to discredit the Labor Committee as spokesman for SDS.
Later, a NY regional assembly dissolved the NY SDS regional labor committee – which had become the organization called the Labor Committee – and set up a new regional organization on labor.
As can be seen from the Labor Committee's press release, they are still using the name SDS Labor Committee. (Emphasis added.)

Dohrn put the word "expulsion" in quotes because she knew that Columbia SDS had no legal ability to expel an independent SDS organization. And in reality, Columbia SDS voted not to expel the Labor Committee but to dissociate the chapter as a whole from what they viewed as the Labor Committee's odious views on the UFT strike.

What I believe happened at the December NC was that the basic right of the New York SDS regional general assembly to disband one of its sub-committees was upheld. The Labor Committee later bragged that it was "thrice expelled" from SDS (Columbia, NY Regional, Ann Arbor). Yet no SDS NC meeting would independently decide to rewrite the "non-exclusion" clause. It is especially hard to see PL voting at Ann Arbor to weaken the very clause that PL had successfully invoked just six months earlier to defend itself in East Lansing. Nor would Dohrn as inter-organizational secretary take it on herself to suddenly rewrite one of the most fundamental rules in all of SDS. And even if she did, she would have never have been able to implement such a change without a full vote at a national convention. Again, all SDS factions (including the Labor Committee) recognized that political expulsions could only take place with a majority vote at a national convention. Ann Arbor merely affirmed the right of a regional SDS body to dissolve one of its affiliated sub-groupings and rejected the Labor Committee counter-argument that the regions lacked just that authority. Finally, if the Labor Committee as an independent political tendency really had been expelled from SDS, then the Philadelphia SDS Labor Committee would have to have been expelled as well. Yet no one has ever made that claim.

By claiming it had been illegally expelled, the Labor Committee chose the very word the group knew that would raise hackles in the rest of SDS because of the sacred nature of the "non-exclusionary" clause. Yet that clause was never invoked. In reality, the majority anti-LC bloc in New York – a rare "rainbow coalition" of Praxis, Action Faction, and PL – used perfectly legal means to disband the old Regional SDS Labor Committee because they knew that expelling the Marcusites on political grounds was impossible. At Ann Arbor, the NC upheld the validity of New York's claim that it had the constitutional authority to act in the way it had. Even if some members of the anti-Labor Committee bloc in New York boasted that they had expelled the Labor Committee, SDS had only voted to dissolve a sub-grouping of the Regional NY SDS General Assembly.


In spite of the early November vote, the Labor Committee continued to contest its validity and operate its own now "rogue" NY Regional SDS Labor Committee. This parallel organization would include not just Marcusites but independent SDS members as well as supporters of other pro-UFT leftist sects, such as the Spartacist League and Workers League. In a December 1968 Campaigner statement, the Labor Committee justified its decision this way:

Labor Committee members . . . cannot be compelled to degrade themselves by publicly supporting anarchist idiocies or tolerating strikebreaking simply because an anarchist dominated junta in a certain chapter or region decrees it.
The question follows: if the Labor Committee disagrees with the majority, shouldn't it split from the regional organization? To argue for that course is to demand that the non-exclusionary features of SDS constitution and tradition be immediately discarded. And to take that course would amount to making SDS a mere sect.
Rather, as the N.Y. Regional Labor Committee recently resolved, each political tendency within SDS must have the right to organize and pursue its own independent, self-disciplined activities. At the same time, within chapters and regional conferences as a whole, all such groups and individuals must continue the "participatory" political development process which national SDS as a whole has represented.
In our view, the proper time to ring down the curtain on SDS will arrive as a sizable faction of SDSers begins to fuse with militant trade unionists and black people, laying the basis for forming a new political organization. . . . Until then, the campus remains the center of gestation in which student left-radicals begin to define their present and future relationship to larger, off-campus social forces. In the interim, an independent, non-exclusionary national SDS must be kept alive as the medium through which students seek out those broader connections and test alternative political world-outlooks offered within SDS.


As much as Mark Rudd's Action Faction hated the Marcusites, Progressive Labor hated them even more. PL's policy during the UFT strike was bizarre.21 Within SDS, PL had been the most outspoken opponent of everything to do with black nationalism. Like the Labor Committee, PL attacked the Ford Foundation for helping to provoke the crisis with the UFT. Yet PL was locked in a life-or-death struggle for hegemony in national SDS. If PL backed the UFT strike, it would come under savage attack as racist from its countless foes. But if PL did a 180-degree turn and endorsed strike-breaking, such a reversal would inflame the dissension already brewing inside its own ranks.

Threatened whichever way it turned, PL now issued a weird endorsement of the very community control views it had so bitterly denounced. PL then launched its own campaign of demonization of the Labor Committee as racists in an attempt to intimidate any of its cadre from dissenting from either its new line or protest PL's "strange bedfellows" alliance of convenience with the party's bitter enemies inside SDS. PL even helped lead the charge to anathematize the Labor Committee, both in New York Regional SDS and at Ann Arbor. In an article in the September-October 1969 issue of the Campaigner entitled "SDS: Beyond the Grave," the Labor Committee analyzed PL's flip-flop this way:

[T]he Labor Committee has been for over a year the principal focus of the worst organizational crimes committed by PLers. As early as the winter of 1967-68, PLers were conducting a national campaign of lying vilification against one of the organizations which later fused in the formation of the Labor Committee (Village CIPA). In the Autumn of 1968, under Rick Rhoads' by-line, PL published a lying version of the Labor Committee's politics – after PL had itself abstained from joint work in supporting the Columbia strike. Rhoads, who led the opposition to risking further support (just before the first bust), had the shameless gall to accuse the Labor Committee of non-struggle. PLers have continued the same lying about work in the garment center.
Furthermore, it was PL who introduced the phony charge of "racism" to SDS polemics against the Labor Committee. More recently, under pressure from saner working-class layers in PL, the organization has even over-corrected its former position of support of the Ford Foundation and Poverty counter-insurgency machinery in the NY teachers' strike of 1968; but there is not a word from PL about the absolute nonsense of its former charges against the Labor Committee in opposing community control counter-insurgency. Furthermore, it was PL which introduced the motion to "expel" the Labor Committee – twice, in [NY] regional SDS, and at the December [1968] SDS conference. (Emphasis added)

PL's change of line now sparked further controversy at Columbia. On 15 June 1969 – on the eve of SDS's final conference in Chicago – the New York Times ran an informed survey of the state of SDS by Thomas Brooks entitled "The New Left Is Showing Its Age." In it, Brooks reports:

Credential fights take place at S.D.S. conferences (quarterly) and conventions (annually) with increasing regularity. Last fall, the Columbia S.D.S. chapter expelled its own labor committee for supporting the United Federation of Teachers in the school-decentralization dispute. And this spring, the Columbia S.D.S. ordered that its expansion committee, sympathetic to the Progressive Labor Party, be disbanded. True, these decisions do not seem to have meant much – both dissident groups still function at Columbia. But their members have been threatened verbally, with bodily harm, a new development in the "loving" New Left.

The PL-dominated "Expansion Committee" inside Columbia SDS (which had an estimated 50 to 60 members) was officially disbanded on 24 April 1969 by just three votes of the Columbia SDS chapter on charges of "racism," a decision that clearly rested on the earlier Labor Committee precedent. The vote followed a disastrous PL/Expansion Committee led "occupation" of Hamilton Hall less than a week earlier on 18 April when the 32 occupiers voted to disband their action after just six hours when they received no outside support from other students or members of the larger Harlem-Morningside Heights community that PL now tried to mobilize. A 27 April 1969 New York Times article on the expulsion entitled "S.D.S. at Columbia Split on Ideology" explained:

The [Expansion] committee which has concentrated on SDS demands concerning opposition to Columbia neighborhood expansion and ROTC refused to adopt what the parent body last week declared as its two primary demands. These are for "open admissions" to Columbia for graduates of four Manhattan high schools and support for the Students Afro-American Society's demand for an all Negro "interim board" to direct the establishment of a black studies program.
The role of black people in revolutionary movements has been the focal point of the dispute between the two factions.

As SDS continued on its path to self-destruction, many Columbia students grew more and more confused. In a 19 April 1969 New York Times story entitled "Columbia SDS Divided on Proper Road to Revolt," one befuddled "sweatshirt-clad student" opined: "It's like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. . . . SDS, well you see they're sort of Evergreen Review, sexually liberated leftists. . . . SDS Expansion, they're much more doctrinaire Marxists and even use such terms as 'surplus value.' SDS Labor, I don't know, they're somewhere in between." The crisis inside Columbia SDS -- and the Labor Committee's role -- was highlighted in a 17 April 1969 New York Times article by Barnard Collier on the state of Columbia SDS. In his report, Collier writes in a somewhat confused way:

A part of the [Columbia SDS] group has, in quite unfriendly fashion, splintered away. The group's labor committee, which is strongly influenced by Progressive Labor party members who are described as Maoist, was expelled from the main S.D.S. group last October. The split was made inevitable when the labor committee issued statements in the name of S.D.S. that attacked school decentralization as only a sop to minority groups. Albert Shanker, the head of the United Federation of Teachers, used the labor committee statements to claim that even S.D.S. supported his strike stand. The problem was that the main body of S.D.S. was labeling the U.F.T. strike as racist, and picketed the U.F.T. offices in protest. After that difference of opinion, there was no way to keep the two factions together.

What the Times story failed to note is that the "differences of opinion" inside SDS had degenerated into very physical confrontations that included a Rudd faction attack on an SDS Labor Committee meeting just a month earlier.


On 11 March 1969 Mark Rudd and a group of his supporters tried to physically disrupt a Labor Committee sponsored-meeting at Columbia. From a New York Labor Committee 11 March 1969 Press Release entitled "Goons Disrupt Meeting to Oppose State Office Building":

N.Y. SDS Labor Committee

March 11, 1969.

Mark Rudd tonight led about twenty goons collected from around the NY Regional SDS office in an unsuccessful effort to physically disrupt a Columbia campus meeting convened to organize around demands for a high school and housing in Harlem.

The meeting was held by the NY SDS Labor Committee, which has been conducting a petition and organizing campaign among high school and college students and trade unionists.

This campaign has demanded:

1. That Rockefeller stop the State Office Building and that he build a new high school and low-rent housing on the site at 125th St. and 7th Ave.
2. That Lindsay build 23 new high schools.
3. A college education or a job with $100 a week minimum wage for every high school student.
4. That the money for this come from taxing landlords and banks, not working people.
Rudd's goon squad assembled in the corridor during the first address of the meeting. Then they marched-in in a body, lining themselves against two walls of the meeting room, heckling and working themselves up to the point of physical assaults on members of the audience.
After the audience expelled Rudd and his squad, the 75-person meeting continued with its addresses, discussion and work session.
Acting on a motion presented by a George Washington High student, the meeting constituted an organization with the name "People for Tomorrow."

Why Rudd decided to attack the Labor Committee well after the UFT strike had ended remains a mystery. Nor, as we shall see, did Rudd's attack go unnoticed in other quarters as well.


In October 1968 the divisions inside both Columbia and Regional SDS over the Labor Committee's support for the UFT caught the attention of the New York FBI. In a 19 March 1993 article for LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review, Ed Spannaus states that on 7 January 1969 the New York Office's (NYO) FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) sent a memo to Washington discussing the conflict inside SDS and how the FBI could aggravate it. The memo stated: "To take advantage of the above situation, the NYO is preparing a leaflet which will be submitted to the Bureau for Approval."22

The timing of the memo suggests that the FBI was responding to the decision by the SDS NC at Ann Arbor that went against the Labor Committee. Although the leaflet was proposed by the FBI, there has been no release of FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that I am aware of that shows that the FBI actually issued a COINTELPRO leaflet against the Labor Committee during this time. Spannaus then cites another 30 June 1969 FBI memo on the local office's attempt to disrupt the Labor Committee that stated: "During the period 5/1-5/69 an anonymous leaflet entitled 'The Mouse Crap Revolution,' designed to widen the split between the SDS Columbia University Chapter and the so-called NY SDS Labor Committee, was mailed to 219 individuals and organizations in the New Left."

Other FBI documents posted on LaRouche Planet, however, offer a different chronology. One FBI document indicates that on 31 March 1969, the New York FBI office sent a memo to Washington about a potential COINTELPRO leaflet against the Labor Committee. On 10 April, New York sent Washington two copies of a suggested leaflet aimed to provoke "disruption in the Columbia University chapter of SDS" and deepen the divisions inside SDS over "the so-called NY SDS Labor Committee." A 24 April 1969 response from Washington granted permission for the NY FBI to mail the leaflet to leftist organizations in New York.

Based on the print evidence, there seem to be two different timetables for the FBI distribution of the COINTELPRO leaflet. Either the FBI first began circulating it either sometime between 1-5 April or sometime after 24 April 1969. It may be that there was a limited distribution at Columbia before the local office received permission to circulate the leaflet more broadly. Given that the events referred to took place on 11 March, it would seem logical that the FBI wanted to circulate the leaflet as soon as possible when the memory of the conflict was still fresh.

The "Mouse Crap Revolution" leaflet crafted by the savants who ran FBI COINTELPRO's New York operation branded Tony Papert as the "Chief Mouse Crapper" at Columbia because he was "trying to screw SDS into the ground" and then named other Labor Committee members that the FBI had obviously singled out for intimidation and attack.

From the leaflet:


It ain't very big yet, schoolmates, but the Mouse Crap Revolution (MCR, for short) , has arrived on our fair Columbia campus. Chief Mouse Crapper is our old friend Tony Papert— lately of SDS and Progressive Labor and worshipper at the feet of Chairman Mao—who is trying to screw SDS into the ground. He and his-fellow mice, including cheeze eaters Paul Milkman, Leif Johnson, Peter Wilcox, Jeff Malter and lovable Bob Dillon, have assume the name of the NY SDS Labor Committee as the vehicle for their treachery. To this the NY Region of SDS says loud and clear: THE LABOR COMMITTEE THEY RUN IS NOT IN ANY WAY CONNECTED OR ASSOCIATED WITH THE STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY!

These finks still have the absolute gall to pass themselves off as official representatives of SDS and have sucked legitimate Black organizations into their rather stupid demonstrations or symposiums. Our Black friends will be surprised to know that Paper and the NY Labor Committee supported the Teacher's Union against Ocean Hill-Brownsville during the last strike! The UFT owns Papert and his crew. Tony has accused Mark Rudd of busting up his meetings,-stomping-on his demonstrations and pissing on his social reforms. Mouse crap! The fact is that Mark effectively creamed the Labor Committee's little tea party on March llth to expose Papert's mice for what they are. That, meeting, by the way, blessed-itself with the balls-up title of "People for Tomorrow". Wow!

Tony, baby, we suggest you take your Mouse Crap elsewhere. Go swap spit with your hero, Albert Shanker of the UFT. Go back to burning joss sticks before the alter of Mao. As for the rest of the so-called NY SDS Labor Committee, we say . . .


Reading "Mouse Crap," it's tempting to think, "One more example of our tax dollars at work" and leave it at that. COINTELPRO's raison d'être, after all, was to deliberately aggravate already existing tensions inside targeted organizations such as SDS. Yet without disputing an indisputable premise, the leaflet still raises a series of obvious questions.

First, we don't know if the release of the leaflet was coordinated with other FBI undercover operations inside the New York Left, surely one of the most infiltrated and scrutinized branches of the New Left as a whole and SDS in particular in all of America. Was the 11 March Rudd attack on the Labor Committee, for example, encouraged by the FBI? And, if so, were there deeper reasons that the New York Office of the FBI – an office presumably staffed with some of the agency's top "New Left" experts – would act the way they did?

One of the most striking aspects of "Mouse Crap" is that, logically, one would think the FBI would put out a leaflet urging support for the Labor Committee, not assaults on it. The FBI knew perfectly well that the SDS Labor Committee strongly opposed all forms of terrorism. The FBI obviously knew, as "Mouse Crap" shows so clearly, that the Labor Committee endorsed the UFT strike when every other SDS faction opposed it. Why, then, was the FBI clearly taking Mark Rudd's side in an attempt prop up the Action Faction and to encourage even more attacks on the Labor Committee?

Finally, the timing of "Mouse Crap" seems remarkable. The FBI worked closely with BOSSI, the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (the New York Police Department's "red squad"), and its equivalent in Philadelphia. As we shall see in detail in the next chapter, almost the same time that "Mouse Crap" began circulating in New York, Philadelphia's police intelligence unit arrested Steve Fraser – like Tony Papert a leader of his local Labor Committee – on a bogus "bomb plot" charge.

If we accept the Ed Spannaus chronology as at least in part accurate, the FBI dumped its "Mouse Crap" into the New York Left on 1-5 April 1969, even if it was at first only circulated in a limited way. On 9 April, Steve Fraser and Richard Borghmann's apartment was raided by the Philadelphia Red Squad and both men were charged with plotting a series of deadly bombings, an absurd accusation that the government had to know was bogus given its spying on the Labor Committee, wire-taps on its members, reading Labor Committee publications, and the fact that the Labor Committee repeatedly denounced the Action Faction aficionados of "armed struggle."

If the decision to mass mail the leaflet came in the middle of April, it means that the Washington FBI headquarters approved an attack on the Labor Committee in New York just a few weeks after the Philadelphia arrests.

Why, then, did the FBI coordinate relatively simultaneous attacks on the Labor Committee in New York and Philadelphia and try and pump up Mark Rudd's reputation to boot? After all, the Labor Committee claimed that Rudd had failed to disrupt the 11 March meeting; "Mouse Crap," however, argues just the opposite.

While it is impossible to know for sure, I think an explanation that may make the most sense may go as follows: We know that the FBI picked up on the splits in SDS over the UFT strike, starting with the October controversy at Columbia. The FBI didn't need a spy at the Columbia gathering; all it had to do was read the front page of the Columbia Spectator. Then on 7 January 1969, well after the UFT strike had ended but immediately following the Ann Arbor NC decision to uphold Regional NY SDS's ruling against the Marcusites, the New York FBI wondered how it could take advantage of the dispute. The real puzzle, however, is why did it take the FBI from 7 January to early April to come up with "Mouse Crap"? And why does "Mouse Crap" seem to have been inspired by the 11 March clash at Columbia?

As I will show in part two of this chapter, the Labor Committee forged an alliance with the UFT's leadership during the fall strike. But the UFT leadership was not a group of lunch-pail-toting, cigar-chomping trade unionists, much less "good fellas" with second houses on the Jersey shore. The UFT's leadership constituted a key part of a liberal anti-communist Social Democratic clique that functioned inside the highest policy circles of the AFL-CIO. Due to its strong overlap with anti-communist labor operators in the CIA, it was sometimes dubbed part of the "AFL-CIA." As we shall see, the Labor Committee connection with the Social Democrats crystallized in a 22 January 1970 Tony Papert article for the Social Democratic paper New America. Arguably, then, if – as the Labor Committee claimed – there was a looming danger of "Police Socialism in New York," on paper, at least, the "police socialists" could well be the Labor Committee.

Given the Labor Committee's more reformist politics – and deep opposition to terrorism in particular – combined with its new ties to the Social Democrats as Tony Papert and Al Shanker "swapped spit," per "Mouse Crap," it seems likely that at least some of the New York FBI's New Left experts, perhaps even the majority of them, might have considered covertly supporting the Labor Committee against the Action Faction junkies. Not only did the Labor Committee drive Mark Rudd up the wall; the Labor Committee hurt PL as well. On 26 June 1969, the FBI's Albany, New York, office, for example, sent a memo to Washington arguing that the FBI should distribute a Labor Committee editorial about the collapse of SDS in the June 1969 issue of the Campaigner entitled "From Resistance to Impotence." The memo states:

This self criticism of SDS by an integral part of this organization is quite surprising and it is believed that this editorial could be used as a counterintelligence measure by making it available by the Bureau to national news sources.

The memo includes a Xerox copy of the Campaigner issue.24

Most important of all, the FBI, the CIA, and other federal security agencies knew that the tiny Labor Committee had absolutely no links to "hostile powers." The FBI, however, was all too aware of the fact that the Action-Faction/NO proto-Weatherman group maintained regular contacts with Cuban DGI officers nestled in the Cuban delegation to the United Nations; that the Cubans and Russians talented-scouted its members and underwrote regular trips to Cuba and East Bloc nations; and that the Action Faction aficionados returned to the United States spouting a Tricontinental Congress "guerrilla warfare" line. As for PL, the FBI certainly knew that top members of that group met with Chinese officials and that the Chinese provided at least indirect financial assistance to PL and bought multiple copies of PL publications. It stands to reason, then, that some section of the U.S. government had to appreciate the Labor Committee's potential usefulness against groups like proto-Weatherman and PL. It is even possible that some section of the intelligence establishment tried to launder money into the Labor Committee via a mystery man named Myron Neisloss.25

Given all these perfectly rational reasons for the FBI to offer covert support to the Labor Committee, why did it take the FBI from early January to early April to intervene into SDS with "Mouse Crap"? Why did "Mouse Crap" attack Tony Papert and praise Mark Rudd? And why did the FBI's Washington headquarters coordinate a massive attack on the Philadelphia Labor Committee almost simultaneously with the release of "Mouse Crap"?

The answer may be both obvious and incredible. At some point there must have been a debate inside the FBI about its approach to both the Action Faction and the Labor Committee. It appears at some point that FBI headquarters decided to support the one faction they believed most likely to wreck SDS. In other words, the FBI may have decided to prop up the Action Faction and crush the Labor Committee not because the FBI now believed that the Labor Committee was powerful or that the Bureau was especially enamored of Mark Rudd but because the FBI believed that the rise of the Action Faction greatly accelerated the overall discrediting, destabilization, and downfall of SDS as a national organization. The FBI similarly despised PL and it ordered its operatives in the June 1969 final SDS convention in Chicago to vote in favor of the RYM 1/RYM 2 bloc against PL. As for the Labor Committee, it was seen as yet another troublesome offshoot of PL.


So far our focus has been on the Labor Committee's role inside SDS. Now it's time to leave the New Left ghetto and examine the Labor Committee's involvement in the UFT strike.

The strike began as the culmination of a series of union protests against a bold attempt to apply "community control" theory to New York City schools. The concept of community control arose not from the black ghettos of New York but from a very controlling community located in the wealthy Silk Stocking congressional district on the Upper East Side. Community control – at least as practiced by the Lindsay administration – was yet another creation of the Ford Foundation, then helmed by a Boston Brahman named McGeorge Bundy. A Yale Skull and Bones man, Bundy stood at the center of the Eastern Establishment elite. He first rose to national prominence as President Kennedy's national security adviser. Then a leading hawk, Bundy pushed especially hard for bombing North Vietnam. Under President Johnson, Bundy chaired the 303 Committee, which helped coordinate the government's secret operations. In 1966, Bundy "left government" to run the Ford Foundation, where he remained until 1979.

In March 1967, the Citizens Committee for Decentralization of the Public Schools was formed to lobby for community control. Robert Sarnoff, the president of RCA and a trustee of the Whitney Museum, led its executive committee. The committee's other citizens included Thomas Watson Jr., chairman of IBM; James Linen, president ofTime, Inc.; and James B. Conant, former president of Harvard University.

In April 1967, Mayor Lindsay formally asked Bundy to draw up a radical new "decentralization plan" for the New York school system, a proposal known as the "Bundy-Lindsay Plan." The Bundy panel's formal report was entitled Reconnection for Learning: A Community Control System for New York City. Ford alone then gave over $900,000 to fund community control experiments in 1967 and 1968, which led education expert Diane Ravitch to accuse Ford of "playing God in the ghetto." In the fall of 1968, the Urban Coalition ran a full-page ad in the Times that asserted: "If you give a damn about our children, we see only one answer: Community control of the schools." The Socialist Party's Michael Harrington labeled the Urban Coalition ad "the most obscene act of Machiavellianism on the part of white corporate wealth in recent years."26 New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, however, defended Lindsay and accused UFT President Albert Shanker of being "an accent away from George Wallace," while prominent liberal journalist Murray Kempton branded Shanker a "goon" and "law-breaker."27

A politically active Socialist and former member of the Socialist Party USA's Young People's Socialist League (YPSL), Shanker had marched for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. The UFT closely allied itself with the AFL-CIO "Second International" left that helped underwrite Martin Luther King's famous 1963 rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Besides helping to finance the event, the AFL-CIO mobilized thousands of its members to attend. Yet Shanker's wing of the labor movement remained harshly anti-communist Cold Warriors; John Lindsay, in contrast, publicly spoke about his opposition to the war. The larger crisis over the future of American liberalism and the issue of the Vietnam War in particular, then, inevitably fueled the debate over the UFT's actions.

The UFT called the strike to fight what it saw as a blatant attempt by the Lindsay administration to break the union. Nor was its suspicion of Lindsay at all unique. New York Times labor expert A. H. Raskin reported that by the end of 1968, "Many – and probably most – of the top leaders in local labor" were "genuinely convinced that Lindsay despises them and that his aim is to 'bust' unions in the municipal service." Michael Harrington, the Socialist Party's left-wing leader, spoke for many when he argued:

John Lindsay has not once given the slightest hint that he has any sympathy for, or understanding of, unionism. He has botched every negotiation he has handled, in part because he is so obviously contemptuous of organized workers. He is capable of a charismatic relationship to the under-organized ghetto, but not of any on-going participation in collective bargaining.28

Harrington and the League for Industrial Democracy's Tom Kahn now became co-chairmen of the pro-UFT Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the Right to Teach. The newly-formed organization took out an advertisement in the New York Times that argued:

Decentralization is not the issue. . . . The real issue is job security. . . . The destruction of the UFT would mean placing teachers at the mercy of local groups throughout the city. It would mean the liquidation of the most effective organized force for improved quality education.29


The Labor Committee spent almost two years organizing around the UFT strike and its larger ramifications; the construction of new public schools, the ongoing debate over open admissions to the City University system, and even what kind of pedagogy should be used to teach students. This campaign led to LaRouche's 1969 pamphlet The Philosophy of Socialist Education, and to the publication of Carol's The Disadvantaged Teacher in 1970.30 The fact that LaRouche's partner Carol worked as a math teacher in New York's public schools should be noted as well. For our purposes, however, the most significant SDS Labor Committee document remains The New York School Crisis by "L. Marcus and Tony Perlman" (a/k/a LaRouche and Papert) and first published as a pamphlet in October 1968. It begins:

The public knows the Central Intelligence Agency through its failures. A U-2 episode, the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco, CIA agents forced to skulk off campus when their presence has been highlighted by SDS radicals. But we know that the puppet-masters of counter-insurgency and political murder sometimes grin and slap their thighs in delight. . . . The domestic counter-insurgency networks, which operate under at least a dozen fronts, has its successes too. The Bundys' and their ilk must certainly have broken out the champagne when they succeeded in pitting the organized poverty movement and most black militants in New York City against one of the largest of the city's unions, the United Federation of Teachers. Giggling must have rippled around CIA headquarters as even the city's radical movement began retailing the official line that the New York teachers' strike was "racist."
In this article we have assigned ourselves several related tasks. The narrowest of our aims is to show that the immediate issue of the New York teachers' strike, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville demonstration project incidents, is the result of a particularly clever "CIA-type" plot engineered by the Ford Foundation and visibly directed by its black "Uncle Toms" – Dr. Kenneth Clark, Rhody McCoy, Milton Galamison, and other "militants." We have to expose the diabolical scheme that Ford Foundation braintrusters have concocted for suppressing the revolutionary threats of the black ghetto; while the authors of "Black Power" headlines fade into yesterday's headlines, domestic counter-insurgency agencies, like the Ford Foundation, have successfully co-opted that slogan, and have turned it into a weapon against black people, a weapon ultimately more effective than bombs, MACE, and bayonets. . . .
The genius of decentralized local community school boards is this. If the oppressed in New York City, for example, were to organize on a mass basis around the issue of education, the result could be massive economic demands on the City budget. By fragmenting the community into a collection of local boards, the Bundy method sets one section of the black community against the others as competitors for the shrinking "concession pie" of funds. The CIA tactic here is obvious. First, to chop up a potentially unified mass into competing local interest groups which can, in the long run, be handled one at a time by City Hall. Secondly, to take the steam out of black militancy in much the same way apparent on the campuses, where powers to police themselves and certain subordinate powers – [but] not real powers over fundamental matters in education, the ability to determine the content and direction of education.
Apart from that, the key to the "decentralization" proposals of Bundy and his black mouthpieces remains the thrust of blaming black children's poor education on "white teachers." . . . What the CIA agencies are doing in today's ghettos is almost exactly paralleled by the British government's sponsorship of Hindu-versus-Muslim communalism in India. That is, to abort the otherwise inevitable victories of two sections of the working population by setting one section against the other. It's an old and dirty game . . . .

The Labor Committee then attacked Dr. Kenneth Clark's approach to fixing the school system:

What the Clarks refuse to admit is that the most fundamental problems of ghetto education lie outside the school system. Ghetto conditions of life are the basis for the particular sickness of ghetto schools. Without adding 4 million new productive jobs a year, a larger group of dark-skinned and white American poor are inevitably going to be shoved into rural or urban ghettos. Without massive construction of good low-rent housing, the ghetto will go on being there. Contrary to the Clarks, black children are bright enough to know that education isn't going to qualify them for jobs that don't exist. For such reasons alone, the "community control" of education is a cruel farce being imposed on desperate black and Spanish-speaking oppressed. . . .31

Most interesting for our purposes, however, is the pamphlet's portrayal of the UFT leadership:

The UFT Shanker leadership fell flat on its face into the trap prepared for it by the Ford Foundation. It responded to the complex issue as if the Ocean Hill-Brownsville governing board were an ordinary employer. On the face of it, there was nothing wrong with that reaction in simple trade union terms. Rhody McCoy is, black or white, a boss engaging in the most high-handed sort of union-busting tactics. But braintruster Clark, Mayor Lindsay and the School Board were not going to let Shanker succeed in that course. Lindsay and McCoy, in various ways, took a number of steps to make this a racial issue, to make the fight for "community control" a racial issue. . . . Even the radical organizations (Socialist Workers Party, Progressive Labor Party, etc.) who have publicly called the strike "racist" know better. These radicals are taking the obvious opportunistic course, trading their principles for the gate-receipts their organizations hope to pick up from black militants. . . .
Shanker's fatal strategic mistake was his failure to undercut McCoy politically. Shanker did not consistently denounce McCoy as a tool for the Ford Foundation, and did not attempt to expose McCoy by proposing to discuss with the community separately, did not attempt to split community people away from McCoy. He did nothing to put the union in the position of an ally of black ghetto people. Worse, as the struggle intensified, he put the union in the position of being an ally of the central school board and later of Mayor Lindsay, demanding that they use police, etc. to repress the community, instead of limiting the demand to closing the affected schools. . . . By such mistakes, Shanker et al. strengthened the hand of Lindsay and the Ford Foundation puppet-masters over the Ocean Hill-Brownsville militants, and also brought a larger number of active black militants and others into the camp of the CIA dupes.

Yet instead of calling for Shanker to resign, the pamphlet argues:

Shanker could not have acted other than he did. If, in one sense, he has made a grave strategic mistake, his nature did not permit him to act otherwise. The UFT has no serious record of struggles on behalf of the ghetto. It does not struggle seriously for adequate low-rent housing, for a city-wide $100 weekly minimum wage, for urgently needed productive jobs for ghetto victims. . . . The pattern of the Shanker leadership has been to lobby in Albany, to wheel-and-deal at City Hall.
The Shanker leadership has never shown an inclination to mobilize mass political support among the union's natural allies. It has never seriously considered independent political action by union members and their allies to replace Democrats, Republicans and Liberal politicians. Shanker has mainly played the old craft-union game of maneuvering for a piece of the "concession pie" setting the union into competition with other government employees' unions and other groups, rather than seeking to establish a common programmatic struggle in the interests of both the UFT and its natural allies.
Let there be no hint of a devil-theory in this. Simply replacing Shanker is no answer at all. Shanker's backwardness and strategic errors reflect the backwardness of the union membership as a whole. Without changing the programmatic outlook and eliminating craft-union "professional" narrowness among a majority of union members, a simple change at the top would be no real change at all. It is easy to pick up the cry of "throw the bums out," and to ignore the fact that "bums" stay in elected office because they are supported or at least tolerated by a majority of the members. Shanker's errors are a reflection of the need to re-educate the union's rank and file.

LaRouche and Papert linked the UFT's backwardness to the larger issue of "classical craft-union policy":

We must emphasize that the old AFL-CIO trade-union tradition is as ineffective today as the AFL tradition was during the thirties' rise of industrial unionism and the CIO. In any period of crisis, such as this, the mandatory course for the organized labor movement is to break out [of] purely self-interested narrowness to ally itself directly with the unorganized and oppressed outside the old union movement proper.


This means that the UFT should be in the forefront of the struggle for a $100 minimum weekly wage in New York City, in the struggle for at least 50,000 new low-rent housing units a year in this city, in the struggle to force government to provide about 100,000 new productive jobs in construction and in other fields related to the urgent material needs of this city. The UFT should be grinding-in the point that without the prospect of a decent future, without the prospect of meaningful employment, and without decent material conditions of life at home, all schemes for improved ghetto education are a cruel farce.32

This then was the "racist" argument that the Labor Committee advanced to support the "racist" UFT in its "racist" strike. At least that was what the rest of NY SDS now claimed.

In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason (116), LaRouche reports that by late June 1968 the emerging Labor Committee began discussing what its position should be on the UFT strike and how it would shape the LC's own position in SDS:

The next topic on our discussion agenda that June was the probability of a potential race-riot scenario in New York City with the opening of the schools in September. Bundy's Ford Foundation was also behind this operation. We resolved to investigate and prepare accordingly.
The tenor of the situation around the so-called Left that September was strongly conditioned by the riotous events which the Yippies organized around the Chicago National Democratic Convention, That event had contributed to infusing the Sorelian mythos of violence among the already fascist-tending currents typified by Columbia's future Weatherman leaders. Our New Left opponents were spoiling for action.They were scheduled for a leading role in attacks on the allegedly "racist, Jewish teachers" in the New York City teachers' strike that fall.

LaRouche then boasted:

well-prepared political counteraction by about fifty of my friends deployed to key points throughout the city ruined the intended role of SDS in the racial conflict. Amusingly, the fact that the New York SDS Regional Labor Committee was leafleting key sites, warning against plans to organize a race riot, created a situation in which SDS groups who had come to riot were turned away by those with whom they were assigned to coordinate. [I think LaRouche means the various black activist groups were enraged at "SDS" -- HH.] My friends' citywide exposure of the role of Bundy's Ford Foundation, hampered the Ford Foundation's actions, especially when teachers' union leader Al Shanker picked up my friends' expose of Bundy's role. There were ugly anti-Semitic noises from various groups . . . but, despite a massive strike-breaking turnout organized by the Communist Party, no one succeeded in getting serious violence underway.


The Labor Committee clearly had no qualms about accusing Kenneth Clark and Rhody McCoy of being "CIA"-type "Uncle Toms." But wasn't Albert Shanker a right-wing Social Democrat? And didn't the Social Democrats maintain fierce links to the "AFL-CIA"? And weren't these same pro-Vietnam War right-wing Social Democrats some of the most fanatical as well as some of the most sophisticated "professional anti-communists" in the American labor movement?

On 22 January 1969, a Tony Papert article entitled "New Left's Bourgeois Impulses" appeared in the Socialist Party USA journal New America. The editors added an introductory note which read in part: "While New America does not agree with Papert's positive orientation to SDS, we believe his analysis is worthy of consideration. The second part of Papert's article will appear in a future issue." Part two of the article, however, never was published.

"Bourgeois Impulses" proved to be a really weird read. Papert reports that the first order of business at the Ann Arbor NC conference was yet another vote disbanding the NY SDS Labor Committee:

The December, 1968, National Council (NC) meeting of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was intended as the start of a purge by the dominant anarchist faction against its main rival, the group friendly to the Progressive Labor Party (PL). As PL was eased out, the anarchists, as they have come to be called, planned to merge SDS with a "Radical Caucus" leaving the Communist Party and [also] with the National Mobilization Committee Against the War in Vietnam. Now we many never see the results of this political alchemy: the intended purge victims surprised even themselves by appearing at the four-day Conference with a near-majority in voting strength.
Highly-charged rumors of purges, along with SDS's recent leap in membership, brought about 1,000 people to the NC, making the four-day conference at the University of Michigan the largest meeting ever held by SDS. And its first official action had the form of a purge: a resolution supposedly "disbanding" the N.Y. SDS Labor Committee, part of the third and smallest faction, on the grounds that it had supported last fall's UFT strike.33 That gesture was the only thing on which PLers and anarchists could unite.

The rest of the text is a strangely anemic and weirdly pop sociological analysis of SDS. Papert opines that SDS's "radical moralism" was "natural to small-business and professional layers" and their children. The class composition of this stratum of the population led their offspring to preach and offer slogans "rather than leading students and their families to an understanding of the social and material" causes of "their present anguish." In contrast, here is how Kirkpatrick Sale describes what happened at Ann Arbor in his book SDS:

The meeting, held in Ann Arbor from December 26 to 31 with perhaps as many as twelve hundred people, dissolved into one long battle between the myriad varieties of SDS regulars and the into-the-breach PLers. . . . After five days of rampageous political battles, lasting well into the early hours, setting delegate against delegate, producing despair and frustration and anger, the final session of the Ann Arbor NC should probably have come as no surprise. The ugliness and discordance of the scene, however, surpassed anything known in the organization before and left a bitter taste in the mouths of most SDSers that lasted for months to come. Carl Davidson caught it all:
The chairman then moved into a fund-raising session, traditionally a time of merrymaking and song at SDS gatherings, while members are emptying their pockets of cash. This time the two opposing camps delivered volleys of chants back and forth. "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh" came from the national collective supporters, answered by "Mao Mao Mao Tse-tung" from the other side. When someone started singing "The Worker's Flag is Deepest Red," the student-worker alliance side of the room came up with "Don't use the red flag against the red flag" and "Defeat SDS's Khrushchev." The final blow came when the singing of "Solidarity Forever" was interrupted by the chant "Defeat False Unity." After that, everyone went home.34

There was another curious aspect to Papert's article. The New York UFT strike ended on 17 November 1968; Papert's article, however, appeared on 22 January 1969. Nor, clearly, did it have anything to do with the UFT strike although Papert does briefly mention it. By publishing an article in New America – and on SDS in particular – was Papert trying to send a signal to the Socialist Party to encourage it to offer the Labor Committee its support as national SDS began to implode?


The Labor Committee-New America connection didn't end with Papert's article. On 22 April 1969, New America ran a story entitled "Philadelphia Police Arrest Young Radicals" by Paul Feldman, the journal's editor. Feldman cites a statement from Tony Papert, "a member of the N.Y. SDS Labor Committee, whom some Socialists know from his group's support for the recent UFT strike." (Feldman does not, however, mention Papert's earlier New America essay.) He then comments:

Although we disagree with a number of the ideological and strategic concepts of this group, our experience with members of the SDS Labor Committee are that they have a principled position against the use of violence. . . . The SDS Labor Committee has dissented from a number of New Left positions such as opposition to the UFT (SDS effectively disbanded the Labor Committee for failing to go along with national SDS policy which favored Community Control and strike breaking against the UFT). It may find it difficult to get meaningful support from those quarters that usually come to the aid of the New Left.

Feldman concludes by giving the addresses for the defense committees in New York ("c/o Dillon, 212 W. 22nd St.") and Philadelphia ("Frazier [sic], 4946 Cedar Ave. Phila. . . . Make checks payable to their lawyer, Bernard Siegel [Segal -- HH].")

But who was Paul Feldman?

Besides being New America editor, Feldman was married to Sandra Feldman, a union official who became UFT President after Shanker retired. Although he came from a CPUSA family, Feldman joined Max Shachtman's Trotskyist Independent Socialist League (ISL) while a student at Brooklyn College in the mid-1950s. He then followed Shachtman into the Socialist Party. As a member of the board of directors of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID), the organization that helped create SDS, Feldman knew something about the New Left. Outraged by SDS's decision to allow membership to avowed communists under the "non-exclusionary clause," Feldman bitterly protested the decision in a 1965 article for the LID News Bulletin. He argued that LID had to break all ties with SDS since LID was an organization whose "dedication to democracy placed it in principled opposition to Communism and all other forms of totalitarianism."35 In the early 1970s, Feldman became a founding member of the "neo-con" Social Democrats USA (SDUSA).36


"LC Upholds Deal with Socialist Party" reads the title of a leaflet written by Dave Cunningham, a non-Marcusite member of the "dissolved" NY SDS Regional Labor Committee and editor of Spartacist, the journal of James Robertson's Spartacist League. The leaflet appeared shortly after a 16 February 1969 meeting of the Marcusite-dominated group refused to endorse Cunningham's proposal that the organization repudiate Papert's New America piece.

Cunningham raised the New America controversy in a 13 February 1969 "Open Letter" addressed to "the Members of the SDS Labor Committee."37 Cunningham recalled that he first discovered the article's preparation more or less by accident when he and Papert were in a car driving to Canada. This reference may refer to a trip to Montreal to attend the "Hemispheric Conference to End the War in Vietnam," which took place from 28 November-1 December 1968. If this chronology is correct, Cunningham heard about Papert's New America proposed article in late November; it further underscores the fact that the LC and the UFT/SP had established a cooperative relationship.38

Cunningham recalled in his "Open Letter" how stunned he was to learn that Papert agreed to write for New America, although Papert dismissed his concern and nonchalantly said it was merely an attempt to gain free publicity in the bourgeois press. Cunningham pointed out that New America wasn't the New York Times but the proud heir of the people who killed Rosa Luxemburg. As for the Socialist Party, wasn't it full of "police socialist types" who had supported the Bay of Pigs invasion and called for the Vietcong to be smashed?


Tony Papert's New America article clearly triggered a debate within the rogue NY Regional SDS Labor Committee, an organization that, as we have seen, included not just the Marcusites but members of at least two other pro-UFT leftist groupings, the Spartacist League and the Workers League.39 Both groups freely attacked the Marcusites on a regular basis. Workers League chairman Tim Wohlforth, for example, wrote a 16 December 1968 article in the Workers League paper, the Bulletin, entitled "The Many Theories of L. Marcus," arguing that the Labor Committee's guru was a bit of a crackpot.

Both Wohlforth and Spartacist League founder James Robertson, like Paul Feldman, had been members of Max Shachtman's Trotskyist Independent Socialist League (ISL) and its youth affiliate in the mid-1950s. When Shachtman decided to abolish the ISL and join Norman Thomas' Socialist Party USA, Wohlforth and Robertson – unlike Feldman – refused to follow Shachtman's lead; they felt the SPUSA was too far to the right. Instead they entered the Socialist Workers Party and Wohlforth became an early leader of the SWP's new youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance. During their time in the SWP, both men met LaRouche.40

When LaRouche left the SWP in 1966, he joined Tim Wohlforth's American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI), the precursor organization to the Workers League. In May 1966, LaRouche broke with the ACFI and he and Carol spent May, June, and part of July 1966 in Robertson's Spartacist League. In short, all the major players were intimately familiar with the various shades of "Shachtmanism," and neither the Spartacists nor the Workers League wanted anything to do with the "right Shachtmanite" Socialist Party, even though they defended the UFT against what they viewed as Lindsay's ongoing effort to wreck New York City's trade union movement.41

At the 16 February 1969 meeting, Dave Cunningham declared that he had no intention of joining a branch of YPSL. He then demanded that the group repudiate Papert's text. Cunningham reported that Paul Milkman – "one of the few LC cadre who knew of the article ahead of time" and the chair of the meeting that evening – "immediately called on Bob Dillon, who moved a resolution to close off all discussion on this 'sectarian' topic." Cunningham complained that his objection was framed by Milkman, Dillon, and others as if it were merely a personal attack on Papert, who remained extremely popular as a hero of the Columbia protests. Dillon's resolution carried by a two-to-one majority vote, as did a similar vote refusing to repudiate the article.

In his "LC Upholds Deal with the Socialist Party" text written shortly after the vote, Cunningham charged that the Marcusites' "hostility to democratic centralism" had now led it to act more and more like an "undemocratic clique-dominated group." After the vote, Spartacist League members left the room. The Workers League contingent and a tiny group led by former Spartacist Central Committee member named Harry Turner, however, abstained from voting. Cunningham reports that not long afterwards, the Workers League was "expelled." On 24 February 1969, the Workers League paper Bulletin documented its removal from the group. [This same article reprints without acknowledgement an extremely rare photo of LaRouche teaching at Columbia's Summer Liberation School in 1968, a photo that first appeared in a Fall 1968 PL publication attacking LaRouche. (See]

Amid all the factional in-fighting, what seems clear is that by late February/early March 1969, the ability of the rogue NY Regional SDS Labor Committee to credibly function as an independent organization with different political tendencies had come to an end. The 11 March 1969 meeting at Columbia that Rudd attacked may have been an early attempt of the Marcusites to launch a new organizing drive without any pretense that it represented some branch of New York SDS as a whole.


On 29 March 1969, the Marcusite New York and Philadelphia SDS Labor Committees helped organize a founding conference of a new national organization that was held at the University of Pennsylvania. By that time the group had recruited supporters in cities like Baltimore, Ithaca, and Rochester. Out of meeting there emerged a new name for the organization, the National Caucus of SDS Labor Committees.42

Some members of the new National Caucus of SDS Labor Committees attended the ninth and final SDS national conference held at the Chicago Coliseum on Wabash Avenue that June, a meeting that drew almost 2,000 delegates. The once plush but now seedy arena had been reduced over the years to hosting wrestling matches, rock concerts, roller derby events, and now SDS. The cacophony caused by PL and the Weatherman/National Office factions chanting slogans at each other tolled the end of the most important leftist organization of the 1960s. Amid the din, the tiny Labor Committee delegation took up its own call. In "a spontaneous moment of situationist combustion," to quote one attendee's description, the Labor Committee delegates began their own chant: "Let's Go Mets!"43

The Labor Committee now turned its earlier critique of the RYM I/"Weatherman" founding document You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows first published in New Left Notes just before the Chicago conference began into a broader obituary for SDS as a whole. From an article in the September-October 1969 Campaigner:

The Rudd-Jacobs Weatherman document is, in a certain sense, a fulfillment – in the sense of advancement of the process of decay – of a strain of anti-working class moods which have dominated the New Left from an early period. In the earlier milder form, up to the beginning of 1966, this was expressed by certain New Left theoreticians as the "axiomatic" assumption of the fallacy of the Labor Metaphysic, the "axiomatic" assumption – in the sense that no respectable New Left scholar could dignify the opposition's position with public literacy or debate – that the industrial working class no longer had a "radical potential." About 1966, this was succeeded by the form of the "new working class" thesis, which granted to the most socially parasitical layers of paper-shufflers a "radical potential" deemed absent from the industrial working class ("anyway," argued the apologists for this thesis, present-day "neo-capitalism" represents "a post-industrial society," in which, they persisted, the historic need of a working class no longer really exists).
During 1967-68, SDS broke away from the tutelage of the scholarly wing of the New Left, a development symptomized by the demise of Studies on the Left and waning of the "Socialist Scholars Conference." In place of scholars like Weinstein, Aronson, Genovese, Baxandall, et al., there emerged a group, Praxis, whose only significant claim to scholarly antecedents was the affectation of a Groton post-nasal drift. In 1968 this gang of muddle-heads advanced the spectacular contribution that the form of "exploitation" under neo-capitalism was "forced over-consumption." For a while, Rudd and Jacobs, as representatives of the so-called "Action Faction" in New York SDS, regarded the Praxis-Axis as the main enemy within SDS, on such grounds as the Praxisites' rotten conduct in practice in the Columbia chapter (as sell-out artists – up to and including the point of the Columbia sit-ins). However, in June, 1968, Rudd and Jacobs embraced the Praxis group as their own "theoreticians," belatedly recognizing in the Gilbert-Calvert-Neiman trash a theoretical premise for advocating a reduction of the incomes of the working class in the U.S.44

Even in the midst of the chaos at Chicago, the small Labor Committee delegation dutifully tried to offer up its own political resolution to the now fracturing larger body. In its 12-18 April 1971 issue, New Solidarity recalled the last gasp of SDS this way:

The NCLC, as it had done many times at local and regional level, submitted a resolution denouncing terrorism. Factional and antic maneuvering characteristic of that last June convention prevented the motion from coming up for a debate and vote.

The only proposal that those sitting near the Labor Committee delegation might have heard the group make over the din was "Let's Go Mets!"


1 Mark Rudd, Underground (New York: William Morrow, 2009), 124-25.

2 On the struggle in SDS, I have relied heavily on Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973). Although PL played an extremely important role inside SDS, it is largely forgotten today. I have, however, found useful a 1977 critique of PL by two former members. See Jim Dann and Hari Dillon, The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party available at A larger history of PL is long overdue.

3 Rudd, 125.

4 The first issue of Solidarity appeared on 15 July 1968.

5 I think Gordon means there was a "NY Regional SDS Labor Committee" sponsored by NY SDS and largely organized and dominated by the Marcusites. Hence in "Len Marcus: Guru of Non-Struggle," Rick Rhoads can write: "The N.Y. SDS Labor Committee, presently dominated by the Marcusites while most revolutionary forces are involved in the separate summer work-in, recently handed out a leaflet in the garment center." (See the September issue of Challenge for an attack on the Labor Committee's work in the garment center.)

The NY Regional body "dominated by the Marcusites" is distinct from the pure "Marcusites" organized in their own independent organization, the New York SDS Labor Committee. The Campaigner charged that sometime in November after the Regional SDS General Assembly dissolved its old Regional SDS Labor Committee, it reorganized it to issue anti-UFT leaflets under the name "NY SDS Labor Committee." This makes sense since NY Regional SDS could now say that the "NY SDS Labor Committee" opposed the strike.

As for both Gordon's and Rhoads' articles, they appeared in the October issue of Progressive Labor.

6 For the full text, see

7 In SDS, Kirkpatrick Sale discusses the SDS National Council gathering held at the University of Colorado at Boulder on 11-13 October 1968. Unfortunately, he only mentions the fact that PL's proposal for a Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) advanced by Jared Israel was defeated by a two-to-one vote.

8 Milkman's letter was then printed in the Campaigner.

9 One anarchist grouping at East Lansing was Ben Morea's Up Against the Wall Motherfucker SDS chapter, which continually tried to disrupt speakers with whom they disagreed. For more on the SDS East Lansing convention, see the appendix "Tripping with ESSO."

10 See Spannaus was charged with "disorderly conduct."

11 Sale, 601.

12 Feldman was understandably confused. Although PL opposed the 1968 UFT strike, in early 1969 the party reversed its policy and came out in opposition to all forms of black nationalism as reactionary. Around this same time, PL's long-time Harlem leader Bill Epton left the group.

13 See Feldman's blog Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories at This blog is an invaluable insider history of Columbia SDS.

The tensions inside Columbia SDS can be seen in an 18 September 1968 Columbia Spectator story:

SDS's fall plans were outlined in a position paper entitled "What Is To Be Done?" drafted by Mark Rudd, and approved by SDS Friday night. The adoption of Rudd's program followed bitter debate at two meetings earlier in the week over tactics and goals of the Left at Columbia. Opposition to Rudd's plans centered in a faction known as the Labor Committee, which believes in building alliances with the community and with workers. This faction, led 'by Tony Papert, a student at Teachers College and leader of the sit-in last spring in President Kirk's office, Paul Rockwell, a graduate philosophy student, and Steve Komm, a currently suspended student who made an unsuccessful bid for the chairmanship of SDS last spring, presented a program Friday night which differed significantly from Rudd's plan in both ideology and tactics.
Rudd's strategy calls for a renewal of the struggle at Columbia without direct attempts to put forward programs for any groups other than students. According to his conception, "exemplary actions* within the universities will set in motion other social groups which will respond by organizing themselves. Rudd rejects the notion that students can serve as an intellectual elite competent to provide goals for workers and other disinherited segments of the society. In contrast to the Labor Committee's economist analysis, Rudd's theories involve what he calls "total oppression," that is, oppression on all levels, psychological as well as economic. He charges the Labor Committee with "elitism," while the Labor Committee accuses him of lacking any program and exhibiting anarchist and proto-fascist tendencies. In addition to outlining strategy, Rudd's program also listed a broadened set of demands upon the University administration. These demands center around three basic issues: Columbia's policies toward the community, the University's participation in government research and amnesty.
The position paper calls for an end to all "racist expansion" by Columbia, listing the following specific demands: The Columbia gymnasium in Morningside Park not be built. All Columbia-owned apartment houses which have been vacated and slated to be demolished, be renovated and turned into low-income housing. The Piers' Project, a housing and industrial project which is being designed by Columbia for an area on the Hudson River north of 125th ST., be converted into low-income housing.
The second general demand is that the University "end all support for American imperialism," calling specifically for an end to all ties with the Institute for Defense Analyses and for the discontinuation of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program. In addition SDS is demanding that Columbia "end all para-military and CIA research," and that the School of International Affairs, which SDS has charged with complicity with the CIA, be closed down. The third general demand is "total amnesty, no bullshit," and that the University not cooperate with the CIA, FBI, or the New York City Police "red squad."
The Labor Committee's "Proposal For a Fall Offensive Against Columbia Racism and New York Capitalism," which was voted down by the SDS assembly, listed substantially the same demands, but sought to focus as well on unionization of University employees, demanding that all employees be granted a $100-a-week minimum wage.
A key difference between the Rudd faction and the Labor Committee, however, centered over tactics. The Labor Committee called for an extensive citywide propaganda campaign, an attempt on campus to discredit the Trustees and President Cordier and a series of rallies, including a memorial service for Patrice Lumumba. Radicals have accused Dr. Cordier of being implicated in the assassination of the leftist Congolese leader in 1961. . . . The four SDS meetings during the past week indicated not only deep factional splits within the membership, but bitter personal animosities, and a disillusionment with the leadership. Many SDS members have accused the current leadership of "elitism* and "cliquishness." Despite these conflicts SDS decided to immediately launch a program of mass action.

For developments at CCNY, see Bob Lovinger, "Ideology and Strategy Stir Tempest in SDS," 12 December 1968, The Campus, p. 3 and available at From the article:

According to Rick Rhoads, '70, of PLP, "SDS's national constitution says that no person can be excluded from the organization, but the regional had told the Labor Committee to change its name. This chapter will take further action, possibly of a physical nature, to see that they do change their name. Those of us in PL don't have a civil liberties attitude about this exclusion question. We're right and they're wrong.'"

PL's threat of violence against the Labor Committee highlights the odd alliance PL made with other factions in NY SDS against the SDS Labor Committee. The CCNY SDS Labor Committee would also be critical of the April 1969 occupation of Klapper Hall by largely black and Hispanic students over the issue of open admissions. See the 25 April 1969 CCNY paper The Campus (pg. 9) and available at

14 As far as I can tell, the Labor Committee supported what it called a "socialist version" of open admissions. PL at one point supported open admissions and then reversed policy. For more, see Lyn Marcus, The Philosophy of Socialist Education (From an Advanced Standpoint), which was issued as a pamphlet in 1969 at a time when the Labor Committee and International Socialists (IS) worked to organize what they saw as a "socialist" approach to open admissions. See As for PL, it had a confused policy on open admissions, at least according to an editorial in the September-October 1969 issue of the Campaigner:

Up to the point that Milton Rosen left for the hospital, PL was supporting "Open Admissions" for blacks; then Rosen, out of pure idiotic social prejudices, turned the PL line around one-hundred-eighty degrees to opposing "Open Admissions" in general. The Pl'ers in SDS now had to shout as loudly against "Open Admissions" as they had phrase-mongered in many decibels for "Open Admissions" the very day before.

15 Rudd, 124.

16 The December 1968 Campaigner footnotes an attempt by a member of Columbia SDS named Stu Gedal to have Columbia SDS offer "critical support" of Ocean Hill-Brownsville, only to be denounced by Hilton Clark (Kenneth Clark's son) as a white racist, while Juan Gonzalez demanded that SDS support the Ocean Hill-Brownsville board "all the way."

17 At the time of the October text, the new President of Columbia, Andrew Cordier, had been accused by Columbia SDS of helping to plan the murder of Patrice Lumumba at a time when Cordier worked as a high official at the UN. Cordier denied the claim.

18 My belief is that Columbia SDS acted legally and dissolved its own standing subcommittee. The reason why I think this is the case is that I believe that the Columbia Spectator report is correct. Columbia SDS also had members of PL and Praxis who would not vote to overturn the anti-exclusion clause in SDS but who would support a vote to "dissociate" the Columbia chapter from the Labor Committee's actions. It is possible that in the hot-house atmosphere surrounding the UFT strike, the Columbia chapter as a whole really did vote to throw out the Labor Committee from SDS. Yet I suspect it far more likely that members of both the Action Faction on the one hand and the Labor Committee on the other erroneously claimed that the chapter had voted to violate the anti-exclusion clause. I, however, believe the key vote was to "dissociate" the chapter from the Labor Committee position on the UFT strike; not to expel the Labor Committee and that the word "dissociate" was chosen precisely because the chapter knew it had no standing authority to expel the Labor Committee but that it could pass a motion that functioned as an added censure. For the Columbia Spectator article by Louis Dolinar, see

19 The Times reporter had no idea that the "PL" members were now part of the LaRouche group.

20 An absurd summary.

21 For more, see the separate appendix on PL and the UFT strike at

22 See the Ed Spannaus article at

23 The text of the Mouse Crap Revolution and the FBI documents are available at

24 See for the memo.

25 On Myron Neisloss, see my separate appendix on "The Mystery Man with One Hand" at

26 Vincent Cannato, The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 344.

27 Ibid., 343.

28 Ibid., 340.

29 Ibid., 342.

30 In 1970-71, the Labor Committee supported the Newark Teachers Union (NTU). See the appendix "The Forgotten Teachers Strike in Newark" at

31 The pamphlet addressed the complicated question of "Black Power" this way:

Clark and others are trying to solve the problem by drawing on the contradictory sentiment for "black power" which has emerged in the black community since about 1963: contradictory because "black power" has a positive as well as negative side. Its positive side is simply that people cannot fight effectively for their rights unless they have the requisite morale and self-respect. The process in which groups of blacks unite, thus overcoming in part their sense of utter helplessness, finding in their own organizations a source of individual moral strength, etc. is necessary. It must, of course, be supported and some of its backward side-manifestations tolerated. The other, negative side of "black power" is expressed in the sick forms of "black nationalism" which, underneath the now-mandatory scowl and "anti-whitey" jive, are . . . the old Uncle Tomism in a new disguise. . . . The attack on teachers, which has been stage-managed from the start by Clark's office at MARC [Metropolitan Applied Research Center – HH], reveals that Clark and his co-thinkers do not intend to attack the real issues of ghetto life but to divert ghetto militancy away from those issues to other phony issues like "white racist teachers."
The way in which "community control" has been disguised by the Ford Foundation, sponsored and directed by the Ford Foundation, Lindsay's role, the way in which the present crisis was engineered by McCoy et al., all attest to the fact that this is a conscious conspiracy by CIA-type agencies to simultaneously co-opt black militancy and to use black militants as a weapon against the labor movement – as strikebreakers and union-busters. Admittedly, the black parents and others in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville experimental school district may have their own legitimate aspirations. Of course, no man can be duped except by playing upon his aspirations, just as the honest militants in the "community control" project (now relatively few) are mainly unaware of the implications of their fight.

32 For the full text, see

33 In his article, Papert uses the word "disbanding" rather than "expelling." As I have said earlier, I believe NY Regional SDS voted to disband one of its subcommittees and not expel the Labor Committee as an independent political grouping.

34 Sale, 505, 510.

35 Ibid., 238.

36 On SDUSA and the "Cold War" between the Social Democrats and the CP, see the "Shachtmanite Plot?" appendix at Feldman and the Labor Committee's Paul Milkman spoke along with others at a CCNY protest/teach in against the war in Vietnam. See the CCNY paper, Observation Post (16 October 1969) page one story available at (The story includes a page one photo of Paul Milkman.) The same issue of the paper ran a piece by the Labor Committee's Ira Liebowitz entitled "The Movement and the War" on page two.

37 See

38 If this is the case, my guess is that the article was initially designed as a report on the upcoming Ann Arbor NC meeting.

39 For a long Spartacist League tract explaining its views on the UFT strike, see my appendix of contemporary texts at

40 On this period, see Smiling Man from a Dead Planet.

41 Both groups argued that the Labor Committee really was a "left Shachtmanite" reformist organization. See my appendix "Shachtmanite Plot?" for more.

42 In Conceptual History, LaRouche writes that in March 1969, "shortly after the Penn strike," the Labor Committee "held our first national conference, [and] became the National Caucus of SDS Labor Committees – with the stipulation that we expected to drop the 'SDS' from the name within the few months national SDS would require to destroy itself."

43 Factnet's "socialistboomer."

44 On "new working class" theory, see the appendix "Tripping with ESSO" at

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