[Marxism] Seymour/Ayers

Ethan Young ethanyoung at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 5 13:52:27 MST 2008

To add historical detail to this thread: 

By 1969 the transformation of SDS --from a 
free-wheeling, left-reformist group closely 
mirroring the development of [largely white] 
student radicalization, especially in the 
northeast, west and midwest, into a left-socialist 
organization with organized factions strongly 
identifying with one or another Leninism--
was complete. The three main factions [PL, RYM, 
and the tiny third-camp ISC] all identified 
with mass action strategies, including in the antiwar

SDS played a big role in reviving mass demos
with the surprise success of their national
anti-Viet war rally in 1965. That success,
and the mass spread of antiwar sentiment [and SDS 
growth] that followed, put a subjectivist kink in 
the messianic mindset of SDS leadership. This 
inhibited the group's ability to come to grips 
with internal and external challenges:

-The concerted and ultimately successful rule-or-ruin
campaign by PL [successful because they did effectively
out-organize other groups at the 1969 convention, 
and then went on to ruin their own half of the split].

-The post-King massification of black consciousness and 
the mass ghetto uprisings, which led to new black-led
revolutionary formations, including but not limited to
the Panther Party, which in turn inspired similar groups
among Latino and Asian youth.

-Intensified state repression against the entire left, 
from infiltration to psy-ops to assassinations.

In this setting, SDSers felt an increased responsibility
for more militance, which mainly took the form of 
publicizing radical ideas and arguing how to incorporate
revolutionary concepts into working class organizing. 
Impatience over the seeming inability of broad coalitions 
to rein in the war turned into hostility toward the main 
organizers of mass demos - the CP, SWP, ex-SDSers, 
left/lib Democrats, and pacifists.

The SDS national office opposed the 1968 National 
Mobilization Cmte and YIP protests as distractions from 
building a revolutionary movement, and as a trap that would 
be met by police violence. But the success of the DP convention
protests--even with the violence--and the subsequent broadened
radicalization, convinced the leadership [by 1968 held by
the RYM faction] to turn, not back to coalition building,
but to calling their own, more militant, more all-sidedly
anti-imperialist national protest for Summer 1969.

The 1969 SDS convention saw a split within the split as the 
Weather faction formed within RYM, which rejected mass
organizing, advocating 'exemplary violence' that would
'up the ante' for imperialism [actually for the movement]
and inspire a mass violent offensive against the war and state 

The rest of RYM strongly opposed this and split to 
form RYM II, but agreed that a national protest was top 
priority, and that the single-issue antiwar movement was passe. 
Their goal was to link radicalized white youth with 
the new revolutionary groups forming in color communities, 
mostly outside the CP/SWP/PL Comintern tradition. They strongly
identified with the working class as the historic agent of
revolution, like PL, while embracing the NLF, the Panthers, 
and Cuba as well as China, unlike PL.

Two national actions converged on Chicago in October 1969.
The better-known Weather action was a silly putsch involving
about 200 full-timers, and a handful of sympathizers. RYM II
brought at least 1000 more to a militant, but non-confrontational,
multi-issue march. Both were tiny compared to any standard local
peace march of the time.

It should be noted that until the RYMs failed to draw numbers to 
Chicago, mass action strategy was taken for granted by all 
concerned, though some were deluded into thinking, even in that 
moment of ferment, that a multi-issue national action could be 
rallied without a broad coalition. Weatherman went into hiding 
and pulled off some harmless revenge bombings. RYM II dissolved 
into local groups, leaving behind a nationwide layer of socialist 
organizers--conscious, maturing, but scattered.


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