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April 16, 1972 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1972-04-16
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Angela

Davis:

Po itical primer

SDS IN RETROSPECT

By GAYLE POLLARD
If They Come in the Morning
is more than a political biog-
raphy of black militant Angela.
Davis. It is a primer on political
prisoners and a testimonial of
widespread support for Sister
Angela as well.
The collection of articles and
letters reveals the inequities of
America's penal system-specifi-
cally for black and brown people.
Moreover, Angela Davis discuss-
es her own particular situation
while rallying support for all
political prisoners.
And while the black militant
Marxist contributes heavily to
the book, the anthology includes
letters and articles by the Sole-
dad Brothers-including the late
George Jackson, Panthers Bobby
Seale and Ericka Huggins, prom-
inent civil rights leaders such as
Rev. Ralph David Abernathy of
the Southern Christian Leader-
ship Conference, Coretta Scott
King, W.E.B. DuBois' widow,
Herbert Aptheker and others.
However the anthology re-
volves around Angela Yvonne
Davis, the 28-year-old black wo-
man who is-at the time of this
writing - charged with murder
and kidnapping in a California.
courtroom shootout, which re-
sulted in four deaths-Jonathan
Jackscn, younger brother of Sole-
dad brother George Jackson,
William Christmas, and James
McClain - all black prisoners,
and white federal Judge Harold
J. Haley. Although the avowed
Communist was not seen in the
San Rafael courtroom during the
escape attempt on August 7,-
1970, the defense alleges that all
guns used by the blacks in the
breakout belonged to Davis. She
is charged with murder and kid-
napping under a California law

which makes an accomplice
equally guilty.
Davis first attracted public at-
tention when she became an as-
sistant professor of philosophy
at UCLA. The native from Birm-
ingham, Ala., created contro-
versy when she responded to the
university's chancellor's ques-
tioning that she belonged to the
Communist party.
Then, the university regents
fired her under a 30-year old
policy against employing Com-
munists. However, a county Su-
perior court overruled their de-
cision. But the regents failed to
renew her contract in June of
1970, ruling her as an incom-
petent instructor. During that
summer, the black militant be-
came involved in the Soledad
Brothers cause-the case of three
black prisoners, George Jack-
son, Fleeta Drumgo, and John
Cluchette, a w a i t i n g trial on
charges of murdering a Soledad
Prison guard in retaliation for
the deaths of three black pris-
oners. George Jackson died last
August 21, from the gunfire of
San Quentin prison guards, dur-
ing an alleged escape attempt.
Recently the two re'maining
Soledad brothers were acquitted
of the charges.
If They Come in the Morning
probes the thoughts and details
beneath the Davis case, the Sole-
dad situation, and the fate of
other political prisoners.
Davis discusses her brand of
Marxism, focusing on a coalition
of all oppressed peoples, with
blacks, Puerto Ricans and chi-
canos at the vanguard. More-
over, she defines political pris-
oners as "largely the victims of
an oppressive politico-economic
order swiftly becoming conscious
of the causes underlying their

victimization."
Initially many of the articles
seem mere mouthings of rheto-
ric. Essays peppered with Power
to the Peoples and Right Ons do
compose part of the collection.
But the book offers more than
empty pseudo-political chatter.
Sections emphasize the realities
of political prisoners, prisons
and black liberation, the prison
system, repression, the Soledad
Brothers, Ruchell Magee and
Angela Davis.
Panthers present their prob-
lems with prisons. Current lead-
er of the Black Panther Party,
Huey P. Newton discusses two
types of prisoners--"The largest
number are those who accept the
legitimacy of the assumptions
upon which society is based.
They wish, to acquire the same
goals as everybody else, money,
power, greed, and conspicuous
consumption. In order to do so,
however they adopt techniques
and methods which the society
has defined as illegitimate. The
second type of prisoner is the
one who rejects the legitimacy of
the assumptions upon which this
society is based. He argues that
the people at the bottom of the
society are exploited for the
profit and advantage of those
at the top."
Newton also maintains that
while the "illegitimate capital-
ist" type prisoner will serve his
time and choose to achieve a
quicker release, the political
prisoner never accepts the legi-
timacy of the. exploitive eco-
nomic system of this country
and therefore will not allow cap-
tivity to crush his spirit.
Both Bobby Seale and Ericka
Huggins, in addition, contribute
to the book. Seale sends a po-
(Continued on Page 14)

Ac
(Continued from Page 1
and off campus who wet aat-
tracted to the Left were grow-
ing. As Jerry-Rubin put it once:
The Left grew faster than it
could turn people off.
All this leaves us more or
less where we are now. More
people than ever before share
an analysis of the society's prob-
lems that could be called radical
or socialist; but fewer are or-
ganized or inspired than only
20 months ago.
An overview of writing about
the New Left and SDS leads
this writer to deep despair. From
Port Huron (at the Michigan
AFL-CIO summer camp), to
community organizing' (started
with UAW money), to the first
(April 1965) March on Washing-
ton to End the War in Vietnam,
to the Pentagon (October 1967),
to Chicago (1968), to the Coun-
ter-Inaugural, I have not yet
seen an account which combines
historical knowledge with the
authenticity of experience.
Alan Adelson calls his book,
with no pretense to scholarship
or historical accuracy, "a pro-
file." It presumes to inform the
reader as to what SDS really
is in 1970. But Adelson is un-
abashed, even brazen as he ap-
proaches the problem. Not for
him to wonder whether what
he is looking at is SDS or not;
he is a nominalist: the thing is
what it calls itself. So he de-
scribes SDS at Columbia, Berke-
ley. Harvard, an unnamed New
England college. and tacks a bit
of history on the end.
But either he is ignorant, or
he is firmly committed to the
politics of the Progressive La-
bor Party, for he writes the
wrong organization's history.
This is too bad, for Adelson's
only acceptably decent writing
occurs occasionally in his his-
torical chapters. Preceding these
he attempts to capture the at-
mosphere of Worker-Student-
Alliance (WSA) chapters which
call themselves SDS. In doing
so he fails; in part, one should
point out, because the somewhat
simplistic ideological thinking of
the faction is not easy to cap-
ture on paper without robbing
its advocates of their wholeness
as people. But Adelson fails at
the easier tasks too. Rather than
patiently explicate the differ-
ence between pacificism, terror-
ism, and revolutionary self de-
fense he merely labels. And in
presenting PL-WSA-SDS in ac-

- -
ritical
tion he makes them look more
idiotic than they are.
Describing the excellence of a
campus chapter's alliance with
local Teamsters, he gleefully
points out that the unionists
nearly "beat to death' a scab-
bing driver. Now, working class
violence in defense of rights and
justice may be, and to this re-
viewer is, defensible. But not
because violence is "good" - an
impression related by Adelson's
syntax; and terrorism - bomb-
ing, assassinations, etc. - is
not bad merely because- it is
violent. Rather, PL's generally
correct view of this matter is
based on strategic considera-
tions. But Adelson seems to
drool at the prospect of blood-
ied scabs.
Similarly, he dismisses,
through the lens of PL's long
held position, student p o w e r
struggles as trivial pursuits of
the privileged. There is, some-
where, some truth in this judg-
ment. But not enough to jus-
tify PL's or Adelson's b l i t h e
contempt.
For example, the education-
oriented turmoil has created two
kinds of resources for progres-
sive change. First, by demysti-
fying much of the elite atmos-
phere and culture of the uni-
versities, substantial numbers of
bosh students and faculty have
come to understand the ruling
class role their institutions tend
to perform. And second, by
creating small niches of student
control in the curriculum a n d
elsewhere, the student power
thrust of the last decade h a s
made some activity possible
which was not possible previous-
ly.
A very good example is the
program for Educational a n d
Social Change - a program at
The University of Michigan
which is oriented to opening the
University's educational process
to working class people a n d
change-oriented students. These
creations, contributed to by stu-
dent power, are not merely priv-
ileged, nor in their potential are
they trivial. If one contrasts
them with PL's preferred line -
support of campus workers'
struggles - the obviousness of
the latter's superiority is lost.
The reasons are there: much
of PL's public reasoning f or
pushing the student movement
into this activity is that "only
the workers can stop the wheels
from turning, and therefore only

Ook at
they can make the revolution."
In practice however, PL's work
is not at the core of the indus-
trial apparatus, but at its dis-
tant, nonstrategic periphery:
campus cafeterias, hospitals, etc.
By basing their argument stra-
tegically PL loses; for the rea-
son students should support
such strikes is not because of
the power of these service work-
ers, but because of the justice
of their demands and the op-
pression of their roles.
Beginning with_ the ominous
suggestion that his reader "be-
gin by forgetting" Adelson sus-
tains through repetition a vindi-
cation of PL in its shadow box-
ing with the Weathermen. The
tragedy of course is that the
New Left created the pit which
PL and its sycophants can now
fill with dung.
Serious revolutionaries h a v e
battled terrorism, sectarian iso-
lation and secrecy throughout
the last century of social c o n-
flict. And now, in an era of awe-
some technology, overweening
surveillance, vast absorbtive re-
sources of our rulers (who can
replace all the broken glass the
freaks can create without so
much as a glance at the balance
sheets), no plausible political
strategy for gaining democracy,
socialism, or even an end to the
war can exclude the necessity
of mass action. So much for PL's
line in response to Weathermen
-they are right. But such a iine
line can be well or poorly im-
plemented by good or inept
leadership in adaptive or rigid
ways. The fruits of PL's own-
ership of SDS' name were earn-
ed only because the nominal
leadership of SDS decided, to
close their office and go un-
derground. Even with the re-
signation of their competitors,
PL has managed to turn SDS
into a minor footnote on the

what's

dossiers of East Coast F
Squads.
From an organization of
400 chapters, of perhaps 2
000 people involved or on
periphery, it is now a small
ganization with a handful
chapters concentrated at E
ern elite schools. Thousand
people around the country n
quit SDS: the factions q
them. But for Adelson this i,
a matter of a working class
defeating terrorism. No comp
ity for him; no history hapr
ed before 1968; no optioi
open to student radicals o
than supporting strikes.
What is left for those
young and old - who see
America the prospects of a
ialist democracy, a coopera
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(

SDS IN RETROSPECT

s

A

Alan Adelson, SDS: A Profile,
Scribners, $10.00.
By ROBERT ROSS
History tends to be written
from the victor's point of view.
Events preceding the victory are
all combed for their contribution
to it. People acting before it are
analyzed in terms of their rele-
vance to the victor's struggle.
Most prominent, usually, is the
last significant g-roup overcome
by the eventual winner. Ameri-
cans know Kerensky's name, as
the man the Bolsheviks beat,
but are hardly aware of the
other pre-October politicians.
Historians may object that
their specialized work avoids
this pitfall of post-hoc deter-
minism; but thein historians do
not own history, the popular
consciousness does. And it is
journalists who come closest to
this consciousnes. Writing about
current event, they tend to call

ritical I
ANN-
. on the most current version of
the past to order their percep-
tions. And herein lie pitfalls the
size of nuclear craters.
Alan Adelson, graduate of Co-
lumbia's School of Journalism
and the Wall Street Journal has
written what he calls "a profile"
of Students for a Democratic
Society. He has written it from
the perspective of the momen-
tary victors - the Progressive
Labor Party (PL). Aside from
crude writing, few facts, and
theoretical comprehension more
fitting to a leaflet than a book,
this very bad account suffers
from an historical perspective
which defines history as 18
months past. The result is five
chapters devoted to SDS at Co-
lumbia in 1970; one on SDS at
Berkeley, at the same general
period; some superficial com-
ments about radicals with Jew-
ish parents; another series of
observations about rich intellec-

ook

at what's L eft'

tual youth; and a chapter on
leafleting (yes!). Adelson's
chapter on "politics of radical-
ism" covers women's liberation,
the Middle East, ecology, popu-
lation control, and Marxism in
. . . 10 (ten!) pages. His three
chapters (43 pages) on recent
history, though written from a
PL predestination perspective,
are at least brisk and dramatic;
but his two ending chapters, (a)
on the failure of PL's working
class line; and, (b) containing
some pious evocation of the
coming revolution, are more or
less worthless.
One contributing factoir to the
lack of depth found in this book
is that Adelson has taken as his
task the defense and presenta-
tion of Progressive Labor's per-
spective on the student move-
ment and the New Left as con-
trasted with the Weathermen.
And indeed, this reflects the
conditions found in SDS at the
moment of the historic split in
1909. But Weatherman as an or-
gahized political tendency was
never more than a micro-fac-
tion, raised to high leadership in
SDS by a combination of mood
youth culture) and the lack of
a national and organizational
perspective on the part of thou-
sands of members of SDS. PL,
too, was a minority faction, but
was able to more completely
mobilize its supporters toward
the end. In the meantime, the
great amorphous mass of SDS
members and sympathizers
watched the charade from the
sidelines.
The history of the people who
now call themselves SDS should
really be the history of the PLP's
attempts to find a mass-based
student organization in which it
could recruit and evangelize in
the sixties. Beyond that, such a
history would describe the crisis
of the Communist Party - USA-
in the period after 1956 and the
Hungarian intervention, and the
groups of American Communists
who would not stomach a de-
Stalinized revisionist party. A

relatively small but brilliant fac-
tion formed PL, and through
slow, patient work created a sect
with some organizational
strength, and rather powerful
domination over the shell of
what once was SDS. This last
domination was accomplished
when the leadership of SDS
either capitulated, became ter-
rorist, or simply lost their fol-
lowing, leaving the organization
to PL.
Adelson has some crude un-
derstanding of the SDS end of
the evolution. He has, or shows,
no understanding of PL's long
struggle (four years at least) to
accomplish the task. And Adel-
son uses his hybrid instruments
of spotty knowledge and spotty
ignorance to beat the straw
horse of the Weathermen. For
him, the only major contestant
with PL was the Weather fac-
tion. So when he sketches - in
the least intelligent language he
can find at any given moment -
the PL-SDS line on a given
question, and then argues for its
validity, the opponent is always
Weatherman. So, if the book-
may be seen as a put-up job of
a dialogue it is between two
sects of the Left: Weatherman
and PLP. And rational socialists,
nonsectarian marxists, demo-
cratic radicals, populists, the
whole patchwork of variety and
wonder that composed SDS in
the Sixties is lost. No bother to
Adelson, this, he just lumps it
all in the "liberal" ancestors
bag.
Yet, throughout the Sixties4al-
ternative ways to define the pol-
itics of the growing New Left
were available and were being
used. They do not appear in this
book for two reasons. The first
reason is that Adelson is gener-
ally ignorant of them. The sec-
ond reason is that these alterna-
tives participated in the ambi-
ence of the time - they were
anti-leadership, anti-organiza-
tional, always in favor of the
"new wave" in contrast to the

"old leadership." Thus, a stable,
undogmatic marxist politics
could not find a stable organi-
zational base.
Ann Arbor's experience is in-
structive in this regard. The ori-
ginal leadership of SDS.in 1960-
64 period, was recruited here,
and the first large SDS chapter
was VOICE political party
which, among other activities,
ran candidates for Student Gov-
ernment Council in the early
Sixties. Here, as in Berkeley,
there tended to be overlapping
generations of New Left leader-
ship which, for a while, provid-
ed a good bit of continuity - at
least in experience, if not in
perspective. At limes this lead-
ership was immensely effective
-it had a mass following. But
starting roughly in 1968, with
the development of the Jesse
James Gang (which included
some of the core leadership of
Weatherman) these patterns of
continuity broke down. The lo-
cal chapter was seriously and
rancorously split. The Radical
Caucus developed, in parallel
with Independent S o c i a 1 i s t
groups in and out of SDS else-
where. Then the SDS people
who had been part of the
Weatherman split, went under-
ground, and some were killed.
By 1969 the younger SDS peo-
ple left on campus had to re-
create their organization. For a
while thy ewere extremely ef-
fective. But influenced by
Weather outlooks they began to
estimate the success of actions
as to whether each was an esca-
lation, more militant, more out
front. than the one before. Fi-
nally, a large group of the lead-
ership formed a political com-
mune which soon split over a
host of issues.
SDS has not been an organ-
ized force on campus since then.
Throughout this period, though,
while SDS was shrinking and
becoming more isolated, and PL
was becoming internally strong-
er, the_. numbers of people on
(Continued on Page 11)

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