Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Louis Dolinar

SAS Support for Panthers May Bring Unity to Radicals

First Published: Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume CXIV, Number 78, 12 March 1970.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“Fucking outasite!” said one white radical, “I just couldn’t believe it.”

The student, a member of the December 4th Movement, reacted as many of her peers did to a brief two-page statement issued by Students’ Afro–American Society late Tuesday night. The terse position paper placed SAS in “full support of the Black Panther Party as a vanguard organization for the liberation” of black people.

What appears to be a new, highly radical stance for the principal black organization on campus has raised hopes that the shattered student movement at Columbia can be brought together under the leadership of SAS.

In the spring of 1968, one of the key events leading to the massive student strike was the decision of SAS on April 23 to join the Students for a Democratic Society in a demonstration against the construction of the Morningside gymnasium and the discipline of six radical leaders. However, while SAS participated in the strike and shared most of the SDS demands, it functioned as a strictly independent force.

Since 1968, SAS has been reluctant to endorse radical causes. Last year, when SDS demanded “open Admissions” to Columbia for students from neighboring high schools, SAS issued a contradictory demand for a special board to evaluate the qualifications of blacks entering Columbia. The SDS program demanded that Columbia Trustee and New York District Attorney Frank Hogan “free the Panther 21.” SAS, however, ignored the issue. Now the white radicals are demanding “reparations” for the Panthers and SAS talks of “putting pressure on DA Hogan” to free the seven Panthers still in jail.

This spring, the white radical movement at Columbia is divided into two major camps–the December 4th Movement and Students for a Democratic Society, which is now controlled by members of the Worker-Student Alliance.

The recently formed December 4th Movement contains many former SDS leaders who abandoned campus organizing last spring. After working with such organizations as the Revolutionary Youth Movement, Weatherman, and the Mad Dogs, they have returned to Columbia to try to organize support for the Black Panthers.

The students currently controlling SDS were members of the organization last year, but at that time the Worker-Student Alliance, closely linked with the Progressive Labor Party, was outnumbered and outvoted on most key issues. Intense personal bitterness that developed in the struggle for control of the organization–as well as political differences –have kept the two factions apart.

But there was something for both groups in Tuesday’s SAS statement, which dealt with the university’s treatment of campus workers as well as the repression of the Black Panthers. The black students attacked Columbia’s “barbaric treatment of Black and Latin workers,” mentioning several instances of maltreatment previously publicized by SDS this year. Singled out in the statement were Charles Johnson’s death through alleged university negligence, the inadequate compensation paid to his widow, and the firing of Benjamin Castro, a cafeteria worker.

Attacks on Columbia’s expansion on “exploitation of the community” that WSA stressed last spring recur in the SAS position paper. The expansion issue has recently been obscured by SDS’s current emphasis on worker-student politics. Under prodding from SAS, however, SDS will easily return to the issue.

The SAS statement was notable for what it did not say. The black group did not affirm backing for the coalition sponsoring a demonstration Friday in support of the Panthers, and made no mention of the Senate resolution to provide them with bail and defense funds.

The carefully worded statement made no specific demands from the university. No deadlines were set, no threats were made or implied. While white radical leaders will admit that they have been “in touch” with SAS, all organizations planning the Friday demonstration have been relatively silent since the SAS statement was released.