September 17, 2009

SDS at Woodstock!

Here's an artifact for you: The leaflet/poster SDS printed up to distribute at the Woodstock festival forty years ago. This may be the only copy extant.

[click image to see larger, enlarged at end of article]

A few points by way of background.

1. Though things were unraveling quickly, the October 8-11 Days of Rage were still officially an SDS action and not a Weatherman activity, with RYM II calling a separate demo. The leaflet, obviously, was an attempt to build it.

2. The leaflet was written, drafted and designed by one person in the NYC Regional Office of SDS on Spring Street, whose name I am not free to use. I think 2 cases, 10,000 or so, were printed. Most never got handed out.

3. The plan was to distribute them to the masses of alienated youth as they arrived. Our base was Movement City, a section of the Festival with a big-ass tent, a spanky new printing press and thousands of dollars worth of additional goodies Abbie Hoffman had jacked out of Mike Lang and the others bankrolling the Festival with threats of massive disruption.

4. Some folks from NYU Uptown SDS and the Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers and probably other chapters arrived a couple days early, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the chain-link fencing Lang's crews were humping to get set up before Friday somehow unraveled overnight Wednesday and Thursday, all of it. Nothing, honest.

5. The producers had remained pretty worried about disruption from the relative handful of movement forces there. The night before the concert started, Hugh Romney (not yet Wavy Gravy), whose Hog Farm commune had been imported to provide security, made his way to Movement City with what you might call a burnt offering--a chunk of very strong hash the size of a regulation softball.

6. The main SDS forces who showed up in Movement City were Weather types, in their early wannabe street-fighter mode. Some of them did help organize a couple of appropriations of vendors who were jacking prices through the roof in the happy knowledge that there were too many people and not enough supplies present. These guerrilla actions were watched with interest and sympathy by festival-goers, but the old "Join us!" cry drew minimal response.

6. Some of the core weather types dropped acid on Friday and others were completely freaked out by the size and apolitical character of the crowd even without benefit of chemical adulterants, but they all fled by Saturday afternoon, even as young people in their tens of thousands were still making their way to Yasgur's farm by any means necessary. Wusses.

7. The forces of sweetness and light did have a nifty, decently-executed banner with a picture of Che (less than two years dead) and his famous quote "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love."

8. Me and Lee stayed for two days after the concert ended until chapter folks dispatched home were able to get back with a U-Haul to pick up the printing press, cases of paper and loads of other abandoned goodies. Never mind him getting clocked onstage by Pete Townshend, all respect to Abbie for the stuff he pried out of Lang & Co., which served the movement for the next decade.


Maurerguy said...

Thanks for a pretty realistic picture. I wasn't there, but I was around the movement at the time, and this all rings true.

Roger said...

Thanks Jimmy for the interesting story. The picture is now linked from the SDS history site, at .

It seems there must have been writing in the circle that surrounds the words. Maybe it was lost in the scanning. Do you know?