Saturday, March 14, 2020

3327. Book Review: You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance

By Arthur Maglin, March 14, 2020

This book is the short memoirs of a couple of dozen ex-Progressive Labor Party and/or Worker-Student Alliance folks from the 1960s to the early 1970s. It reads well and their take on their experience is varied. Most have no regrets and believe that PLP was doing good work in that period against racism and the Vietnam War, but that it became increasingly sectarian and that their version of Leninist organization was strictly top-down authoritarian. Most of the contributors have become progressive activists and only one seems to be currently in a different socialist organization, although a few passed through others. I would love to have seen people contribute who stayed in PLP much longer, but the longest anyone seems to have remained was 1975. It would, in my opinion, be interesting to see similar books recounting the personal experience of people in other 60s and 70s organizations (and later decades for that matter). The format is an intriguing and revealing one that helps one get more inside the heads of the people who went through these events within an organizational framework.

The WSA was a major faction in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and was blamed by many for the break-up of SDS in 1969. However, while some of the memoirs think that PLP's politics aided the break-up, none blame it solely on PLP and recall the fact their opponents soon split to form what was to become the Weather Underground and the Revolutionary Communist Party.

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