[sixties-l] FSM & SDS

From: Sdsrebels@aol.com
Date: 12/08/00

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    In response to Michael Rossman's request for information about the impact of 
    FSM...
    Here's what I remember that related to SDS (Students for a Democratic 
    Society) .
    
    SDS heard about FSM activity almost immediately from SDS members in Berkeley 
    (where SDS had a small & not very visible chapter).  At the time (fall 1964) 
    I was working in the SDS national office (then in NY) as assistant national 
    secretary.  Much of my job was to communicate with SDS chapters, giving them 
    hints about how to organize.  I was also editing the SDS Bulletin (precursor 
    of New Left Notes) and always included information from chapters on what they 
    were doing.  The national office saw much of its role as 'information 
    central', spreading ideas and information around the country.  This was 
    before the days of the internet or even the alternative press (and students 
    didn't have cell phones or money for long-distance calls) so the Bulletin was 
    a key way to spread information from one campus to another.   At this time, 
    SDS had only about 25-30 chapters.
    
    As things heated up for the FSM, I would receive phone calls (in the middle 
    of the night New York time!) from Steve Weissman after FSM steering committee 
    meetings, telling me the latest updates.  And the next day I would spread 
    those to other chapters.  Plus Bulletin articles.  In December, Berkeley SDS 
    members Steve Weissman and Eric Levine came to the SDS National Council 
    meeting in NY (quarterly meetings attended by chapter delegates to discuss & 
    decide on activities for the organization) and were able to talk people from 
    other SDS chapters there about FSM.
    
    SDS also organized a speaking tour that winter for Mario Savio, Betinna 
    Aptecker, Suzanne Goldberg, and Steve Weissman to various east coast colleges 
    (thru the SDS chapters there) to talk about the FSM experience.  Some SDS 
    chapters had their own 'free speech' movements at different times, tho I 
    can't remember them all (I promise I'll try to find more of this for you 
    Michael).  University of Texas (in Austin) is one place that had both a visit 
    from Steve Weissman and a free speech movement, Robert Pardun writes a little 
    about that in his forthcoming book, Prairie Radical, on his experiences in 
    Austin and national SDS.
    
    Campus issues had been important in SDS since its beginning and many chapters 
    were interested in what was happening in Berkeley.  Fall of 64 was a time 
    when SNCC/COFO's Mississippi summer and SDS's first summer community 
    organizing projects in northern cities (ERAP projects) were over, students 
    were back in school (tho some staff remained in Miss & ERAP projects), 
    Vietnam was still a small blip on the radar screen (25,000 US "advisors'), 
    tho some were noticing it more & more.  By the December NC meeting, SDS 
    realized Vietnam wasn't going away & we couldn't ignore it and began planning 
    for the April '65 March on Washington.  Steve Weissman ended up leaving 
    Berkeley and joined the SDS staff in the national office planning for the 
    march (and always being a resource about FSM).  After the march, Steve became 
    a regional traveler for SDS, mostly in the South, and talking both about 
    Vietnam and FSM-type actions on various campuses.  This was a time when SDS 
    was growing rapidly and new chapters were springing up all around the 
    country.  Often chapters that found Vietnam (and sometimes also civil rights) 
    to be too 'radical' for their campuses, organized around campus issues as a 
    way to reach students.  Soon, of course, as the war grew, Vietnam began to 
    overshadow everything else.
    
    Helen Garvy
    26873 Hester Creek Rd
    Los Gatos, CA  95033
    (408) 353-4253
    sdsrebels@aol.com
    



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