Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Lenny Glynn

SDS Focuses on “Fighting Racism”

First Published: Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume CXIII, Number 101, 21 April 1969.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Fearful rumors of “hoards” of black high school students rioting through Columbia today have been circulating all week. The explanation by SDS leaders that they had called off their one day strike last Thursday to avoid a “bloodbath” greatly strengthened these fears of the “black peril.”

Over the weekend SDS leaders became so concerned about the rumors that they issued a statement on behalf of the high school student leaders that the high school rally this afternoon would be “peaceful and non violent.”

SDS also promised to put off the “militant struggle” that most people on campus had expected to begin today. This represents the third time in the past week that the radicals have adjusted the tactics approved at last Monday’s general assembly to the necessity of “supporting the black demands.” A march to the 24th precinct last Wednesday was cancelled so that discussions could be held with SAS on the strike planned for Thursday. A “militant march” through the community Saturday was called off at the request of SAS so that SDS could march with the blacks on Sunday. Finally, the promise of a “peaceful” Monday.

These changes indicate a major change in strategy. In a Wednesday press release SDS stated that the primary thrust of the organization’s actions in the future would be directed toward “fighting racism.” In the same release SDS added that it considers the meeting of the SAS demands to the black students satisfaction to be a prerequisite to settlement of the radicals’ other demands on the military presence and university expansion. This shift, which makes secondary all of the issues that the radicals have organized around this year, has already produced serious strains within the group.

One of these strains, which has led to expectations of a split, is the yearlong internal struggle between the SDS expansion committee, led by members of Progressive Labor, and the supporters of the steering committee on the questions of what racism is and how to fight it. The expansion committee, led by Mike Golash, held a six hour sitin in Hamilton Friday against the wishes of the steering, committee. The sit-in, which pressed the SDS demand for opening 197 Columbia-owned apartments was described as “renegade” in leaflets distributed by SDS. As a result, sources close to the steering committee expect that the next general assembly will see a bitter fight to disband the expansion committee.

Whether the steering committee can disband the expansion committee depends [text missing in original – EROL] the fight has national implications for the radical movement. The Columbia chapter will be the first to attempt to expel a Progressive Labor faction. PL has shown great strength in national SDS during the last year, coming very close to a majority at the last national council. If PL is expelled from the Columbia SDS the spasms of the struggle will continue through the next year, but if the steering committee fails, Progressive Labor will probably succeed in winning a majority at the next national council.

Thus, in one sense the future of SDS depends on SAS. If SAS presses its demands against Columbia militantly or agrees to support the demand for open admissions, the steering committee will probably succeed on the momentum of the struggle. But if the Blacks compromise and reject the open admissions demand, the expansion committee may survive and perhaps win control of SDS.