Chapter 22: At United Parcel Service and Queens College, 1969 (iv)
As the “Days of Rage” approached, I still didn’t rule out the possibility of going out to Chicago, though. A split-off faction of Weatherman, called Revolutionary Youth Movement II, was planning to hold a less militant demo in Chicago simultaneously with the Weatherman “kick ass” demo. Near the end of September, I attended a Newsreel film showing at Rutgers University’s Newark campus, that was part of a radical student anti-war festival there. Florrie and Lynn turned out to be the Newsreel people who brought the films to be screened. After the film showing, Lynn gave a militant speech to the crowd of about 100 anti-war youths and urged people to come to the Chicago demo in a few weeks.
Although Lynn was not a member of the Weatherman group, her politics at this time were quite similar. Her line on anti-sexism, however, was much harder than the anti-sexist line at this time of Bernardine and the other Weatherwomen. Weatherwomen, such as “The Motor City Nine” (who successfully used their karate skills in a Detroit community college classroom to apparently gang up on two pro-war men students who tried to disrupt an anti-war movement recruiting speech), emphasized the importance of Movement women becoming physical feminists and as fierce physical fighters as Movement men. Lynn, however, stressed more the importance of Movement women fiercely fighting against the male chauvinism of men—inside and outside the Movement—and against male supremacy everywhere.
In early October 1969, a few days before the Chicago “Days of Rage” demo, I bumped into Harvey in front of the Washington Square “Peace” Church on W.4th St., where Newsreel was holding an all-day screening of its films.
Harvey was friendly at first when we met. Then his expression turned serious and he asked: “Are you going with us to Chicago, Bob?”
I shook my head and replied: “I’ve decided not to go. The pigs are too well-armed for us to be effective. I agree with the Panthers. It’s a suicidal trip.”
Harvey frowned. “You’re wrong, Bob. It’s the right strategy. We can’t use the same tactics we used at Columbia to build the Movement now. We have to put our bodies and our lives on the line—and fight—if we want to see a Revolution. We can’t hide behind our white skin privilege anymore. And we have to be ready to die, Bob.”
“I don’t think it’s going to accomplish anything without the Black community in Chicago and the Panthers supporting the demo, Harvey.”
“The Panthers have different strategic needs than we do. Unless we follow through on this demo and really bring the war home, we’ll be selling out the Vietnamese.”
I felt bad about not wanting to follow Harvey out to Chicago, although it still seemed morally justified, but politically illogical, to me. “Maybe you’re right, Harvey. But I just don’t believe it’s the place and time for me to risk my life. Most Movement people in New York aren’t going to join the Weather demo. At best, they’ll join the RYM II march,” I said.
“Most Movement people are bourgeois. We’re looking for militant working-class fighters, not middle-class talkers, now.”
“I doubt if many non-Movement working-class youth are going to go to Chicago either.”
“Well, even if our demo is small, we have to go through with it. We have a revolutionary obligation to fight as hard as the Vietnamese. And to risk our lives as much as the Vietnamese, as long as the war in Viet Nam continues.”
“I agree with you there, Harvey. But I’m not sure Chicago next week is the best place or time to risk our lives.”
“I’m right, Bob. And you’re wrong.”
Feeling further debate was useless, I wished Harvey luck at the demo and went inside the church to watch the Newsreel films.