A Note on PL & SDS, was Re: united students against sweatshops

Borba100 at SPAMaol.com Borba100 at SPAMaol.com
Sun Aug 20 21:30:50 MDT 2000

In a message dated 08/20/2000 8:44:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
cbcox at ilstu.edu writes:

 >  How to interpret this or that phrase
 > from the Maoist playbook? >>

Whatever was wrong with the worker student alliance caucus, comparing it to
ISO is nuts.  First of all, it had a very nonsectarian way of talking and
second, it had a mass base.  Mass.  It led huge student actions.  Such as the
San Francisco State strike (closed the school for months) the Harvard
building takeover in '69 (a year before Kent State); it had a membership -
the caucus had - of 103 at Harvard in April, 69; SDS had about 750 members;
and so on.  We talked almost exc lusively about the class implications of
issues affecting the student movement - not at all like the ISO.  For
instance: our opponents in SDS called for getting rid of ROTC because they
said it corrupted the ivory tower nature of the university.  We said this
represented a contemptuous attitude toward workers and that ROTC was bad
because it was used against working people around the world, e.g., Vietnam.
And we said the things taught in universities made it impossible for ROTC to
corrupt them - it was too late.

I was one of the leaders of the WSA caucus nationally.  The story of its
self-destruction after the 1969 split in SDS, and my role in that, my most
regrettable role, are another matter with pretty bad consequences. That story
has not been told.  But before the summer of '69, that caucus did some of the
best organizing I've ever seen in this country.

It didn't fall out of the skies.  It was made up of some of the best kids
(alas mostly, though NOT entirely, white - but also, on the good side,
disproportionately working class - for instance, the scholarship kids were
our stronghold at Harvard) who came out of the civil rights movement (that's
where I'm from) and the antiwar movement.

As for waving the little red book - horseshit.  The 1969 Convention of SDS,
which ended with 1/3 of the delegates walking out and leaving the wsa caucus
and its supporters as well as people who thought splitting was unprincipled -
that convention began with a debate between me and Mike Klonsky, who was the
President of SDS. Klonsky was a leader of the side the walked out.  I was
more or less the whip of the wsa caucus.  In that debate, Klonsky produced
his Ace: a letter from Anna Louise Strong, and from it he purported to read.
I never saw the thing, so for all I know, it was a blank sheet of paper.
Strong, who had spent years as an American hanger-on of the Chinese Communist
Party, said that Mao said that we (the wsa caucus) were full of shit.  So
there it was - condemnation from On High.  When he finished the room was very

I answered (this is more or less accurate - 31 years later!) : "I haven't
seen this letter.  It may not say what Klonsky claims, and if it doesn't,
then Klonsky is lying.  In which case, shame on Mike Klonsky.  But let us say
he is telling the truth.  In that case Anna Louise Strong is saying Mao Tse
Tung wants to tell this convention that  the WSA caucus is all wrong. Well, I
wasn't privy to Strong's conversation with Mao.  It may not have taken place,
or she may be misquoting Mao, in which case shame on Anna Louise Strong.

But she may be telling the truth.  She may have had exactly that discussion
with Mao.  In that case, Mao tse Tung, who is thousands of miles away, who
cannot possibly understand the disagreements which have divided SDS, - if he
in fact said these things, and therefore has chosen casually to interfere in
the work of a student organization that is trying to grapple with serious
problems - if this letter is true, and he has acted in such a truly
thoughtless way, then I say: Shame on Mao Tse Tung."

My comments elicited a favorable response from the audience of 3000.

Does that sound like we all were into waving the red book?

As I said, horseshit.


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