Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New SDS

First Published: Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume CXV, Number 50, 8 January 1971 .
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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After more than a year of a narrow, sectarian approach to politics, Students for a Democratic Society has again begun to address itself to issues that concern students.

The worker-student alliance that SDS has sought to forge in that time must not be abandoned. The oppression of workers, especially black and Latin workers, at Columbia is still a real issue, as recent disputes over job security and wages here attest.

But it is not enough simply to support union strikes, or to picket cafeterias whenever a worker is fired. As one SDS member said before their recent national convention, “We were right in thinking that workers could teach students about the kind of low wages, insecurity, and real economic oppression that janitors, maids or factory workers face. What we forgot, though, is that we can show them that our own privileged economic position, the one they appear to strive for when they strike, is meaningless in the kind of society we have that pollutes the air and twists the mind of its people.”

An especially encouraging part of the new SDS program is the attempt to relate Columbia directly to the issue of the war in Vietnam. SDS has charged that at least six professors currently at the School of International Affairs are former agents of the Central Intelligence Agency, and are teaching courses that are relevant only to the suppression of popular rebellions. If these charges prove true, SDS deserves broad student support in ending the kind of complicity in American foreign policy that such teachers and courses represent.

The chapter has now also begun to establish real links with the community around Columbia. In the past, ties with the community were limited to demonstrations in support of whatever happened to be the issue of the week. Now, however, many members of SDS plan to canvass the dormitories to bring students to the squatters’ apartments to do desperately needed repair work. Such organizing will serve two purposes: It will materially aid members of the community, and it will also show students who go there to work the kind of conditions faced by those who share Morningside Heights with Columbia.

Most important, however, is the new organizational structure that this program represents. Now free from the manipulative control and obsolete ideology of the Progressive Labor Party, the group should be able to attract many new members. With student activism at its lowest ebb in many years, the intellectual and political leadership that SDS now seems capable of is sorely needed.

SDS has, without a doubt, declined in strength and effectiveness over the past years. The change in its policies is long overdue; we only hope that it has come in time to revitalize the campus political situation.