You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance

“…a Jewel of a collection of US revolutionaries’ memoirs that captures and recreates the period like no other…” --Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

From Cuba to Harvard Yard and San Francisco State. Defying the travel ban, fighting the war and racism, student strikes, labor and community alliances.

COME CELEBRATE, question, and enjoy readings from this publication of memoirs with participants in struggles from the sixties and seventies, as part of the vital discussion about building strong movements today.

Today, Students for a Democratic Society is often portrayed as the drama of the good early 1960s SDS turning into Weatherman, the small faction whose story ended in bombed-out New York townhouse.The reality was quite different. SDS at its apex in 1968/69 numbered 100,000 students whose political views reflected a rainbow of ideologies exploring what a new American left could be with a willingness to risk everything to stop the war in Vietnam and achieve social justice. When SDS splintered in June 1969, a majority of the delegates supported the program of its Worker-Student Alliance caucus: building a strategic alliance between students and the working class to achieve the movement's goals.

The contributors in this book were mostly members of WSA, whose formation was initiated by the Maoist Progressive Labor Party. Here they recount and evaluate their participation in the struggles of the 1960s and early 1970s, from trips to revolutionary Cuba defying the US travel ban to student strikes, labor and community alliances, and campaigns against the war and racism across the country, from Columbia and Harvard, Texas and Iowa, to San Francisco State and UC Berkeley. These accounts are both optimistic, from those still inspired, and bitter, from those now critical of their involvement. The stories they tell speak across the years, as a new generation--from Black Lives Matter to Fight for $15 to the Parkland students--faces decisions about how to organize and build alliances to stop wars abroad, confront racial oppression at home, fight for immigrant rights, and end violence and neoliberal exploitation.

Readers include:

Emily Berg has been a teacher, artist, social worker and therapist since leaving PL in the early 70s; she also helped raise three wonderful children. She lives in Boston and would be happy to talk with old friends.

Ellen Israel is a nurse midwife and a public health specialist in sexual and reproductive health and rights.    She worked as a clinician and women’s advocate first in the Boston Neighborhood Health Clinic system and then in private practice, followed by 30 years working with health systems to community health initiatives in developing countries (in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean), most recently as The Senior Advisor for Women’s Health and Rights at Pathfinder International.   She is currently co-producing the Spanish Version of Dr. Willie Parker’s important work on abortion rights: “Life’s Work: a Moral Argument for Choice”.  She is a mother and grandmother and lives in Boston.

Frank Kashner, not electable to union office due to his prior communist affiliation, stayed at GE as a machinist and shop steward until 1983, long enough to see progressives take over the local union leadership.   After leaving General Electric and IUE Local 201, Frank pursued subsequent careers, and continued activism, in software engineering and social work.  He is currently retired and recommends that you read “Democracy in Chains,” by Nancy MacLean, ASAP. Then contact him with your plan of action.

John Pennington has been a jack of all trades. After his activist experience at Harvard (as SDS regional traveler, Harvard strike, draft resistance), he has managed a youth program for low income kids, organized independent filmmakers, produced social documentary films, organized community cable TV public affairs programs, leased mainframe computers, sold mainframe computers, tested financial industry software, etc. He is currently the communications secretary of his NJ suburban Republican town’s Democratic Club.

Mary Summers is a senior fellow and lecturer in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She teaches academically based community service courses on the Politics of Food and Healthy Schools. She worked in health care for many years as a Physician Assistant (starting out in Boston’s neighborhood health centers) and in electoral politics as a speechwriter for Jesse Jackson, Harriett Woods, Dennis Kucinich, and John Daniels, the first African American mayor of New Haven. She has written and co-written articles for The Nation, Urban Affairs Quarterly, PS: Political Science and Politics, Agricultural History, Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning and several edited volumes.

Earl Silbar is one of two editors of You Say You Want a Revolution.Since being kicked out of Progressive Labor in the early 70s, Earl was an active member of an anti-fascist group, helped form an independent socialist collective in Chicago with whom he was active in labor solidarity and gay rights organizing as well as Central American and South African solidarity work and several study groups. He was also active in several workplace union organizing drives, including the successful one for adult education teachers in the city colleges of Chicago where he taught GED for 27 years, and he was elected to many union positions until his retirement.  Since then, he has been active in a local anti-racism,  peace and justice groups. 

Event date: 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019 - 7:00pm

Event address: 

Porter Square Books
25 White St.
Cambridge, MA 02140
You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance Cover Image
By John F. Levin (Editor), Earl Silbar (Editor)
ISBN: 9780578406541
Availability: Available at Warehouse
Published: John F. Levin - November 21st, 2018