History

From the Vaults: SDS, 1968

Any analysis of the radical left in 1960s America would not be complete without a look at the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) which had a dramatic effect on student activism and opposition to the Vietnam War. David Gilbert, a Columbia University graduate, was an activist within SDS and together with David Loud, he wrote a short pamphlet, U.S. Imperialism, that was published by SDS in 1968. I copy below the final paragraph from the pamphlet:

U.S. Imperialism

David Gilbert and David Loud

Students for a Democratic Society,  March, 1968.

Our personal liberation requires the destruction of the same capitalist contradiction and institutions that oppress the mass of mankind. The force and power of those contradictions is embodied in the multi-national corporation and the related institutions in government, education, and the mass media. The respective liberation struggles, although quite different in form, constitute a common struggle. We must constantly and consciously link our own activities with a world anti-imperialist struggle. From this struggle, an entirely new quality of human relationships can emerge.

Many far-left wing organisations have factional splits. SDS was no different. In 1969, a year after this pamphlet was published, the organisation split. Gilbert went with the Weathermen faction who wished to “bring the war home.”  A number of  Weathermen, including Gilbert, went underground. Activities to “bring the war home” included setting off a number of bombs in the United States.

As has been admitted by a former member of the Weather Underground, they wished to take over the government of the United States and they thought they would need to kill 25 million people to do so:

[The Weather Underground] believed that their immediate responsibility would be to protect against what they called the counter revolution. And, erm, they felt that this counter revolution could best be guarded against by creating and establishing reeducation centers in the South West.  [This is] where we would take all the people who needed to be reeducated into the new way of thinking and teach them how things were going to be. I asked, well, what is going to happen to all those people who we can’t reeducate, that are die-hard capitalists and the reply was that they would have to be eliminated. And when I pursued this further, they estimated that they would have to eliminate 25 million people in these reeducation centers. And when I say eliminate, I mean kill 25 million people.

I want you to imagine sitting in a room with 25 people, most of which have graduate degrees from Columbia and other well known educational centers, and hear them figuring out the logistics for the elimination of 25 million people. And they were dead serious.

At some point in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Gilbert became part of the Revolutionary Armed Task Force. Together with members of the Black Liberation Army, in 1981,these heroes of the far-left took part in an armed robbery to steal $1.6 million from a Brinks armoured car. In a police shoot out, two police officers were killed. Gilbert was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Is there a moral to this story? I think there is, yes. In 1917, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin  wrote State and Revolution.  In this book, he made clear: “The supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution.” Violence is key to those, such as the SWP, who subscribe to Lenin’s ideology. Let there be no doubt, “violence” means killing people.  As shown above, the Weather Underground estimated that they would have killed 25 million to gain and maintain power. With such ideology, killing a couple of police officers is no big deal. If the SWP ever came to power they would also support mass murder. There is only one question at this stage that needs answering: how many people do they estimate they will kill?

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