Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The 1969 Weatherman Statement Revisited: Excerpts from Part 10

It’s not likely that the New York Times will mark the 40th anniversary of the June 1969 Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] National Convention in Chicago by reprinting excerpts from the position paper of the Weatherman faction of SDS. So following are some excerpts from Part 10 of this historic position paper (that originally appeared in the June 18, 1969 issue of New Left Notes) which might interest U.S. anti-war activists in 2009—during the current U.S. historical era of “endless permanent war abroad and economic depression at home”:

“One way to make clear the nature of the system and our tasks working off of separate struggles is to tie them together with each other: to show that we’re one `multi-issue’ movement, not an alliance of high school and college students, or students and GIs, or youth and workers, or students and the black community. The way to do this is to build organic regional or sub-regional citywide movements, by regularly bringing people in one institution or area to fights going on on other fronts.

“This works on two levels. Within a neighborhood, by bringing kids to different fights and relating these fights to each other—high school stuff, college, housing, welfare, shops—we begin to build one neighborhood-based multi-issue movement off of them. Besides actions and demonstrations, we also pull different people together in day-to-day film showings, rallies, for speakers and study groups, etc. On a second level, we combine neighborhood `bases’ into a citywide or region-wide movement by doing the same thing; concentrating our forces at whatever important struggles are going on and building more ongoing interrelationships off of that.

“The importance of specifically neighborhood-based organizing is illustrated by our greatest failing in RYM [Revolutionary Youth Movement] practice so far—high school organizing…We’ve been unwilling to work continuously with high school kids as we did in building up college chapters. We will only reach the high school kids who are in motion by being in the schoolyards, hangouts and on the streets on an everyday basis. From a neighborhood base, high school kids could be effectively tied in to struggles around other institutions and issues, and to the anti-imperialist movement as a whole.

“We will try to involve neighborhood kids who aren’t in high schools too; take them to anti-war or anti-racism fights, stuff in the schools, etc.; and at the same time reach out more broadly through newspapers, films, storefronts. Activists and cadres who are recruited in this work will help expand and deepen the Movement in new neighborhoods and high schools. Mostly we will still be tied in to the college-based movement in the same area, by influencing its direction away from campus-oriented provincialism, be recruiting high school kids into it where it is real enough and be recruiting organizers out of it. In its most developed form, this neighborhood-based movement would be a kind of sub-region. In places where the Movement wasn’t so strong, this would be an important form for being close to kids in a day-to-day way and yet be relating heavily to a lot of issues and political fronts which the same kids are involved with…

“Another failure of this year was making clear what the RYM [Revolutionary Youth Movement] meant for chapter members and students who weren’t organizers about to leave their campus for a community college, high school, GI organizing, shops or neighborhoods. One thing it means for them is relating heavily to off-campus activities and struggles, as part of the citywide motion. Not leaving the campus movement like people did for ERAP [Education Research Action Project] stuff; rather, people still organized on the campus in off-campus struggles, the way they have in the past for national actions. Like the national actions, the citywide ones will build the on-campus movement, not compete with it.

“Because the Movement will be defining itself in relation to many issues and groups, not just schools (and the war and racism as they hit at the schools), it will create a political context that non-students can relate to better, and be more useful to organizing among high school students, neighborhood kids, the mass of people. In the process, it will change the consciousness of the students too; if the issues are right and the Movement fights them, people will develop a commitment to the struggle as a whole, and an understanding of the need to be revolutionaries rather than a `student movement.’…” (end of part 10 excerpts)

(New Left Notes 6/18/69)