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    I recently watched the recently released documentary Rebels With a Cause. This is an informative and concise visual history of the largest (mostly) white radical student organization in the 1960s-the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Given the historical importance of the group, it is surprising that only now is there such a document. Fortunately, it is worth the wait. The organization's story is told via a compelling collage of film clips from the time, voiceover narrative, and recent interviews with several former SDS members--many of them women, both from the national leadership and other less known local members. The film is a personal odyssey for the director and former SDS member, Helen Garvy, as well. The interviews are the most informative and refreshing segments of the documentary, while the narrative and film clips serve as an effective vehicle for substantiating the interviewees' recollections and comments. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of all, as regards the interviews, is that none of those interviewed regretted their participation in the organization and only regretted that SDS was unable to do more to end racism and the war in Vietnam.

         The film is constructed chronologically, tracing the organization's history from its beginnings in the hearts and minds of Fifties teenagers in the United States watching African-Americans in America's South being beaten in their struggle for freedom to its eventual disintegration into small alienated sects by the early Seventies. Interspersed between photos and video footage of meetings and rallies, the organization's early philosophy of participatory democracy as put forth in the 1962 Port Huron Statement is explained by Tom Hayden, Alan Haber, and other founding members. The group's early relationship with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the pioneering student organization in the fight against U.S. apartheid, is also explained. This relationship, while tenuous at times, evolved from an early SDS identification of racism as the fundamental problem in American society--a perspective shared by SNCC. It was this focus on racism which one could argue led the later leadership to identify deeply with the Black Panther Party.

         SDS applied its philosophy of participatory democracy when it formed small groups known as the Educational and Research Projects (ERAP) that went into northern urban neighborhoods in cities like Newark, New Jersey and Cleveland, Ohio to organize working people of all races around neighborhood demands. Simultaneously, the limitations of this form of democracy became apparent. Something else that became apparent to the women was that, in many ways, they were replicating the very same roles women played in mainstream society. The first public signs of this recognition appeared in the SDS newpaper New Left Notes in January 1967 when Jane Adams published an article titled "On Equality for Women." This piece vocalized the thoughts of many SDS women who had been hesitant, for whatever reason, to express the growing sense that they were appreciated more for their secretarial skills than their political and organizational knowledge and abilities. That revelation was the beginning of their journey towards liberation and the cause of some dissension within the ranks. Another lesson learned during this period that would guide SDS's future analysis was the fundamental role economics played in racial and gender discrimination in the United States. The experiences gained during this community organizing phase of SDS proved valuable, especially in the wake of JFK's murder, LBJ's election and the subsequent expansion of U. S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

         Some would argue that this period was SDS's finest hour. They were the first organization to hold a national rally against the war and, as every interviewee in the film who is asked tells the viewer, the organization was never the same after the April 1965 rally in Washington, D.C.. For the first time, SDS was no longer a group of people where everyone knew each other. Instead, it was on its way to becoming the largest radical student group in the country. The antiwar rally is memorable for its size (over 25,000) and SDS president Paul Potter's speech that went beyond previous analyses and claimed that the war was not an aberration but was essential to the system's survival. The dimension that time provides allows us to see Potter's words as a natural development as radicals developed a deeper understanding of the system's fundamental nature, but in 1965 the claim that America was fighting a war for imperial reasons that had nothing to do with freedom or democracy was revolutionary. The 1965 demonstration was the only national protest against the war ever called by SDS.

         The primary reason for the singularity of this event was because the organization was intent on maintaining a multi-issue approach. The refusal to become solely an antiwar organization created space for a greater development of their anti-capitalist perspective. However, despite its stated desire not to become a single issue group, the SDS position against the war is what spurred its phenomenal growth between 1965 and 1968--eventually over 100, 000 young Americans considered themselves members. Perhaps the most compelling story told in the film by those who joined SDS during this period is the one from future SDS president Carl Oglesby. He was a researcher at Bendix Corporation involved in a project designed to measure what size of raindrops (or, as Bendix termed them-particulate mist) fell deepest into the rainforest. As he soon discovered, the real purpose of the research was to determine how to cover the maximum amount of Vietnamese jungle with defoliants like Agent Orange. After discovering this, Oglesby quit his job at Bendix and became a full-time SDS organizer against the war, traveling from campus to campus with little or no money and spreading the word.

         Over the next couple of years, the organization's numbers grew exponentially, with many members coming from the America's heartland, like much of the original core. Old-timers used the organizing practices they had learned in the South and during the group's community organizing phase a couple years earlier. This time around the issues involved university collusion in the war machine in the form of research or ROTC, and the draft. As frustration grew with the ever expanding war, protests became more militant--a trend which some believe led to the organization's eventual destruction. By 1968 the tactics had shifted from "protest to resistance" and the stakes had risen considerably higher, inspired in part by a week of anti-draft protests in Oakland, CA. in late 1967 designed to prevent the induction center there from opening. April 1968 saw the takeover of Columbia University and a new breed of radical, typified in many people's minds by SDS member Mark Rudd (who is not in the film), whose image was splashed across the world via a LIFE magazine photo of him sitting in the university president's chair smoking a cigar. The effectiveness of the Columbia takeover convinced most of the SDS leadership that actions like the takeover were much more effective organizing tools than less confrontational forms like pickets, rallies, and teach-ins.

         Despite this growing sentiment, the group continued organizing young people for planned peaceful protests in Chicago at the Democratic Convention that August. The original focus of this organizing were those youths working for the peace candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. By the time of the convention, however, Kennedy was dead and McCarthy had been rendered politically impotent by the Democratic party leadership. In addition, the city of Chicago had refused to grant all permits but one to groups planning protests during Convention week. The stage was set. By week's end, the police had rioted, attacking young people of all persuasions, and convincing the rest of the SDS leadership that peaceful protest was not only ineffectual, it was pointless.

         The macho revolutionary style eventually became the standard among SDS leadership with both women and men. By 1969, it had also turned many of SDS's adherents away from the organization towards other less dangerous forms of protest. Others, meanwhile drifted towards the antics of the politically-inclined counterculture as exemplified by the Yippies. The remainder of the organization, meanwhile, began embracing various strains of Marxist-Leninist dogma while also finding themselves infiltrated by a small but powerful Maoist sect known as the Progressive Labor Party. The desperation felt at the time led many concerned radicals to look elsewhere for easy answers. Usually, this meant adopting other doctrines which may have made sense in their country of origin, but in retrospect made little sense in the United States of the late Sixties and early Seventies.

         Unlike many Sixties flashbacks, there is very little glossing over of the group's mistakes, such as the leadership's turn towards armed struggle in 1969-1970 in the form of the Weatherman/Weather Underground Organization. Just as importantly, the film discusses the disintegration of SDS in a context that acknowledges the mistakes of sectarianism and terrorism while simultaneously expressing the anger at (and frustration with) the perceived lack of progress in the struggle against racism and the war that led to those two trends becoming the dominant trends of the dwindling membership. Once again, the dimension that time provides allows the filmmaker, her subjects, and the viewer to follow the logic of the progression that the organization took.

         Additionally, the film addresses the role the government counterintelligence operation known as COINTELPRO played in the unmaking of SDS and other New Left groups. In recent years there has been a failure among certain historians to seriously deal with the effects of COINTELPRO on the radical movements of the 1960s, despite the revelations concerning that operation's unconstitutionality that eventually freed, among others, the former Black Panthers Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt and Dhoruba bin Wahad. As Bernardine Dohrn and Carl Oglesby remind the viewer, although the attacks by law enforcement on the Black Panther Party and other non-white organizations were apparent to white radicals, the infiltration and disruption of predominantly white organizations like SDS was not taken seriously among many activists, even after the police riots at the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968 and the subsequent indictments of the eight radicals known as the Chicago Conspiracy on a gamut of federal charges.

         The presence of so many female interviewees in the film provide the necessary importance to the role women played in SDS and the movement at large. At the same time, their discussion of the emotional and intellectual conflicts they experienced during their time in the organization give depth to a story that is more than a chronology of protest. Most importantly, this film goes a long way towards filling in the blanks regarding the essential participation of women in the movement for social justice and against war in which SDS was a primary player. The presence of some of the group's most intelligent and eloquent spokespeople (Dohrn, Casey Hayden, Cathy Wilkerson, Carolyn Craven, among others) certainly enhances the effort.

         If the film has a drawback, it is that its length is to short to provide a more detailed history. Despite this, the director, Helen Garvy, has done a fine job putting this film together. The style and content are accessible, agreeably done, and, as noted before, refreshingly unapologetic. Rebels With a Cause supplies a welcome antidote to the current mainstream revisionist telling of Sixties history-a retelling that has Bill and Hillary Clinton as the "best" of that generation. This documentary is appropriate to the university and high school classroom, as well as the big screen. I hope it gets the large audience that it deserves and that this country needs. Northeast Research Associates Pie in the Sky Farm 93 Dwinell Road United States doing some building for the people, they Marshfield, Vermont