Must Be the Season of the War
Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Carol R. Sternhell

Must Be the Season of the War

At Least One October Protest Will Mean Guns

First Published: Harvard Crimson,  September 30, 1969.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

There are lots of ways to try to fight this war.

At Boston University last week, Mark Rudd told his audience, “You’re fools if you don’t get guns and join the Revolution.”

Meanwhile the Student Association at the Harvard Business School approved unanimously a resolution asking the faculty that classes be optional on October 15, in support of the Vietnam moratorium.

John Kenneth Galbraith has publicly endorsed a statement for the Moratorium, urging colleagues “to organize an outpouring of citizens constructively demonstrating, in their own way, opposition to the prolongation of the war.”

Bill Ayers, an organizer for RYM’s national action, told a Marquette University SDS chapter to bring baseball bats, clubs, helmets, and firecrackers to Chicago.

Some people are going to march on Washington. Some people are going to march on the JFK Federal Building in Boston. At Harvard there are at least five separate groups organizing some sort of demonstration for October or early November.

There are lots of ways to try to fight this war.

October 4

On October 4, beginning at noon, there will be a city-wide march on the Federal building. Supporters of the march are regional–Cambridge and Boston–SDS members, which means that they are largely members of the Worker-Student Alliance (WSA) caucus of SDS, a caucus whose philosophy is based on that of the Progressive Labor Party. WSA claims to be the only true SDS, and does not recognize the split with the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM), who walked out of last summer’s Chicago convention. (More of RYM later.)

The march demands immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, no negotiations, and “an end to university attacks on the people.” Designed to bring together as many Boston area schools as possible, it will begin from three separate spots–Boston University, Boston State, and Harvard–and all marchers will meet at the intersection of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenue, then continue on to the Federal building.

“The march is not in itself a solution,” said Jay Sargent, a Boston State student and member of the march steering committee. “It is a building action for a campus worker-student alliance. This is the focus of our whole campaign; we must make this alliance concrete.”

“We must show that the role of the university is not neutral,” Sargent said. “We attack it for exploiting its own workers.” He criticized more moderate groups like the Moratorium and the Student Moblization Committee (which is planning a November march on Washington) for seeking faculty and administrative support for their efforts. “You don’t ask a boss to participate in your strike,” Sargent said. “The university not only is imperialistic; it is itself a boss.”

The march, conceived at a September 14 sub-regional SDS convention, will culminate in a rally with three speakers: Cindy Kline, the Cambridge Peace and Freedom Party’s candidate for City Council; John Pennington, SDS national secretary; and Sargent. This wing of SDS is opposed to the Moratorium, Sargent said, “but will participate in it in order to win people over to a better position.”

“Rather than create illusions about whom you ally with, you have to be very sharp,” Sargent said. “When you issue statements that appeal to the lowest common denominator, you don’t advance the struggle–groups such as these (the Moratorium and the SMC)–have killed the anti-war movement in the past; they see these demonstrations in themselves as solutions, and think it’s enough to act only once every six months.”

The WSA faction of SDS (which in Boston includes many unaffiliated radicals who have not allied officially with either WSA or RYM) is strongly opposed to the Chicago action, and has officially condemned the Weathermen, RYM’s extremely militant/adventurist core who are planning the national action.

“Our struggle is a people’s struggle,” Sargent said. “A worker-student alliance is the clearest way to light racism and male chauvinism. This march will bring together people from all over the Boston area in a common eflort to build a movement which can help force the U. S. out of Vietnam.

October 8-11

The Chicago action has also been called the Chicago massacre. Members of the National Action Gang (nominally led by Columbia’s Mark Rudd, now a Weatherman) have been working out on weekends, running through calisthenies and self-defense exercises. The official name for the program is “Days of Rage.”

The Weathermen, members of RYM (although many milder RYM adherents have lately begun dissociating themselves from certain Weathermen offensives) are an outgrowth of last year’s New Left, viewed at the time as being less militant than WSA. While WSA is well-organized, tightly disciplined, and patient, building for revolution around the support of America’s working class, the Weathermen are flamboyant. They use guerrilla tacties, hit-and-run violence.

The Chicago action is viewed as an armed return to the site of the bloody Democratic National Convention, five days of escalating action culminating in a disruption of the “Chicago 8” conspiracy trial. The eight, including Abbie Hoffman; Bobby Scale, national chairman of the Black Panthers; David Dellinger, national chairman of the Mobilization Committee to end the War; Tom Hayden, Rennie C. Davis, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, and Lee Weiner, are accused of conspiring to incite a riot during the Democratic convention.

Bill Ayers, a Weatherman organizer from Michigan, said during the summer that perhaps 20,000 people were expected in Chicago; 15,000 actually demonstrating and 5000 hard-core SDS. (To Ayers SDS means RYM, the group that walked out. And in the midwest this is fairly accurate; PL is strong only on the coasts.) As tentatively planned, there will be eight “centers” where people will stay, perhaps church basements or student cooperatives around the University of Chicago area. People from each center will act together and form into cadres of 40 each that will fight police together–that is, if a policeman charges the demonstrators, rather than run these people will band together and attack him.

Students in different parts of the country have reported different instructions, but general policy scems to favor coming armed with any weapons short of guns. These may range from clubs and baseball bats to firecrackers and black widow spiders in jars. There are, however, some planning to bring guns as well; Mark Rudd flatly told his B. U. audience that people will be killed in Chicago.

The Chicago action was first proposed during the SDS national convention. The five day offensive as now outlined will include:

A march on the first day through Chicago’s Old Town, to unite demonstrators and initiate the idea of marching and street fighting.

Disruption of high schools, known as the “jailbreak”–the plan includes briefing the high schools students in advance to join the demonstrators in the streets.

A “women’s liberation day” when a women’s brigade will march bare-breasted into banks and courts.

A rock festival in Lincoln Park, hopefully featuring the Fugs.

A march through Chicago’s Loop to the Federal Building where the conspiracy trial is being held, disruption of the trial, and possible destruction of buildings along the route of the march.

It should be stressed that these plans are only probable. Weatherman strategy is of the moment. Five Days of Rage. As one Harvard junior, whose polities fall into what the Village Voice calls “that crevice between liberalism and revolution,” said, “PL could never plan “Days of Rage.” They just don’t think like that. But that’s how the Weathermen live.”

October 15

The Vietnam Moratorium is supported by students at 500 American universities. It is supported by John Kenneth Galbraith, George Wald, and Martin Peretz at Harvard, and Noam Chomsky at M.I.T. It’s written about in the New York Times editorialized for in the New Republic, and supported by Sen. Eugene McCarthy, Sen. Charles E. Goodell of New York, Sen. Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon and Sen. George McGovern. It’s supported by the Democratie National Chairman, Sen. Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma. And there are rumors that a statement of support will be presented at today’s Faculty meeting.

The Vietnam Moratorium was conceived as an anti-war student moratorium last July by three former McCarthy staffers: Sam Brown, national student coordinator for the McCarthy campaign; David Mixner, a former organizer of farm workers; and draft resister David Hawk. The idea of an escalating moratorium–one day in October, two in November, and so on “until there is a clear commitment to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam”–seems to have been accepted by most of the liberal establishment.

The Moratorium is also supported by the Student Mobilization Committee, the organizers of the march on Washington. It is opposed by most of the more radical groups. WSA accuses it of selling out to the very imperialists which it must fight. And a spokesman for the November Action Committee, a coalition of groups planning a week of demonstrations in the Boston area, calls it “objectively ok, but not a way to end the war.”

The Moratorium is a moratorium on “all business as usual,” designed to appeal to more than just students. “What’s significant is getting people out in the community,” Richard Zorza 72, coordinator at Harvard, explained. “This is a broad anti-war movement. We’ll be asking shops to close, and people to wear black armbands, or turn on the headlights in their cars. We’re building a manpower source for community organizing.”

“This is very much a single-issue campaign,” Zorza added, “the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam. We hope that every Harvard organization will supports it.”

The Vietnam Moratorium advertises itself as “an effort to maximize public pressure to end the war by encouraging a broad cross-section of Americans to work against the war.” It will expand by one day per month: is focused on ending the war with related issues (the draft, militarism, inflation) being brought in by participation on the local level; and encourages activities in which those unable to take the entire day off can participate. It calls its activities a “new polities” campaign-broad based participation, door-to-door canvassing, and small group contact.

Sam Brown explained during the summer that the group chose the word “moratorium” to preclude use of the word “strike,” which bears unwanted connotations of violence and would be wrongly interpreted as an action against the institutions struck rather than against the war. “It is important to employ actions and rhetoric that will maintain the broadest possible opposition to the war,” a group statement reads.

In the Boston area, Oct. 15 will include a 3:30 p.m. rally on Boston Common, featuring as speakers McGovern, Howard Zinn, and labor leader Cesar Chavez. “But the rally is not a prime concern,” Zorza said. “The real significance of Oct. 15 will come with the vast involvement with the communities of Boston which we are planning.” The movement is completely decentralized, with different activities planned at each participating campus.

“We want the assumption that nobody will be going to classes Oct. 15 to slowly sink in,” Zorza said.

November 6-13 (approximately)

A lot of SDS radicals are somewhat displaced these days, definitely not members of WSA, but put off by the Weathermen tactics. Many of these are nominally members of RYM, but wary of the name. The November Action Committee (NAC) in Boston may be viewed as a loose coalition of such groups.

NAC is planning a week of demonstrations against strategic research centers in Cambridge, aimed particularly at Harvard and M.I.T. The action will begin with a city-wide student demonstration, tentatively scheduled for M.I.T. on Nov. 6. Plans will not be definite until tomorrow.

“The hope is that this demonstration will be such a step forward in clarity of position and size as will create a mood for action,” one spokesman said. The demonstration–to be directed against “imperalist research”–may be a building occupation or an obstructive picket line. High school organizing is also going on, and an effort will be made to have high school students take action the day following the demonstration. A mass march through Cambridge or Boston is planned for the end of the week.

The NAC was conceived by Michael Ansara ’68, formerly of Harvard SDS, and some of his friends, as “an attempt to get everybody together in support of the NLF.” Support of the NLF is stressed by the NAC. “The Left has gotten splintered into quarreling factions. It is important that people begin to do something, and something that will help the NLF,” the spokesman said. “Something to build a non-cooptible anti-war movement that demands immediate withdrawal because it is for the other side. Demanding withdrawal for other reasons–because the war is not good for America–is just bullshit. To us, half a withdrawal is not half as good; it is not progress.”

The NAC now includes non-PL-SDS all over Boston. (PL does not support the NLF, which it feels sold out the people by agreeing to negotiate.) It is supported by the Weathermen, but does not support them, and was not involved in the attack on the Center for International Affairs last week. It was the NAC that called and organized last Friday’s University Hall demonstration against the Cambridge Project.

“The November Action will be much more visible than other anti-war activities being planned.” the spokesman said. “Everything will be taking place right here in Cambridge–the decision of whether or not to join us will be forced upon every individual.”

He added that the NAC would probably abide by the moratorium, but “organizationally will ignore it.” “This is no way to end the war.” he said. “You can get the whole Senate behind it and nothing will happen. You can even get Nixon reading a statement condemning ’this and all wars’ and it won’t make any difference. This war is about real things going on; we need to positively support the NLF.”

November 15

The Student Mobilization Committee (SMC) has been an anti-war force since 1967. It supports the Moratorium, but sees itself as somewhat to the left of Moratorium organizers. SMC is planning a mass march on Washington.

SMC is a national student movement centered around immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all troops; interested in organizing mass actions against the war and in tapping GI and high school anti-war sentiment. At Harvard, the organization is just beginning, with committees being formed in all the Houses. The plan is for a broad-based peaceful march on Washington, at this stage apparently similar in conception to the 1967 march on the Pentagon.

According to Andrew M. Day 72, SMC is working in cooperation with the Oct. 15 Moratorium as a building action for the march. The first day of the two-day November Moratorium, Nov, 15, coincides with the Washington action conceived early in July at a Cleveland anti-war conference.

“The overwhelming majority of the American people are opposed to the war in Vietnam and are not fooled by the transparent maneuvers of the Nixon administration,” a SMC leaflet reads. “Yet the war escalates; the GI toll continues to rise; the Vietnamese continue to suffer.”

There are many ways to try to fight this war. Maybe this time around something will work.