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Bombing on the Mind

"There are literally hundreds of people living around this university who don't show up for rallies," Marc says. "They have spread a lot of explosives around the city. They all relate very strongly to BOOM. I do myself."

With false cool I borrow one of Marc's Camels. "What about the people in the buildings? They were cleared out before IBM, Mobil Oil and General Telephone were bombed, but can peple count on a courtesy call before every explosion?"

Marc rips a silver coil off his Camel pack.

"I'm not sure the kind of people who work in those buildings shouldn't be blown away too."

Suddenly I am not the only one trembling. Marc's right knee begins paddling against the table leg, like a rudder out of control. What is his fear about?

He lights cigarette number three.

"I'm convinced there will be a violent revolutionary uprising this summer. Much larger than Watts. On a national scale. It will be essentially a black movement with white revolutionaries who relate to it . . ." Marc's voice trails off. "In New York there's a group . . ."

Pen poised, half wishing I had stayed home to pair socks, I wait for Marc to give the nod that note-taking is allowed. He spreads his hands palms up on the table. Narrow hands and finely boned, hands with many previous apologies in them.

"Why not?" Marc says. "I'm not telling you anything the Red Squad doesn't know. In New York there's a coalition of white radicals and two Harlem groups planning to close down the whole city this summer. Including subways, bridges and tunnels." The Camel has burned down to Marc's nicotine stain, but his fingers do not react. He expects the uprising will spread out of Harlem, and the next stop is Morningside Heights, where he lives.

"There are people here willing to do their part at that time," Marc says. Long pause. He continues speaking in the second and third person. "It may be an abortive revolution but it's inevitable and it's going to be violent. And that means the possibility of dying. Many people I talk to now tell me they can accept their own death." Another ghostly pause.

"Many affinity groups are dealing with death—your death," he says.

"My death?"

"Individual death."

". . . 'It may be an abortive revolution but it's inevitable and it will be violent. Many affinity groups are dealing with death now.' . . ."

We seem to be having a slight communication breakdown around pronouns. Marc keeps his eyes hammered into the table when he speaks. Apparently this is protocol for such conversations. Because of the vague way radicals talk about the most extreme things, it becomes terribly important to know exactly which you and they we are talking about.

"What about you, Marc? Are you ready to die?"

"Me?" His eyes sweep the room once around, as though checking out the jury. For the first time his words come out in the first person.

"I still question myself. It's conceivable to me I could be killed on short notice for a number of activities I'm involved in."

For comic relief, the Seeburg in the corner begins grinding out the big one from Blood, Sweat and Tears.

I'm not scared of dyin'
And I don't really care.
If it's peace you find in dying
Well then, let the time be near
. . .

Marc is talking about how he plays out all these fairly real scenarios.

"Having to flee. How would I handle myself in a jail situation? I play out all these fairly real scenarios, like would it be better to be lined up by the state and shot or by PL and be shot?"

PL is Progressive Labor, the elitist faction that split with SDS last June, haranguing for a worker-student alliance. Its members must pass required reading in Marx and Lenin and forswear long hair, drugs and isolated acts of terrorism. PL is strong in the Boston area. At Columbia it has seven members. They wear sports jackets and dedicated-psychiatrist glasses, and their most powerful weapon at Columbia is a bullhorn. When the prevailing radical faction whips up a crowd around the Sundial, one can always count on a PL party hack to leap up and claim the rabble with his bullhorn. He makes a stunning beginning, like "Remember, when you smash windows it's the workers who have to clean up! The real issue is the widow of an employee of this university who is living on $37.60 a month . . ." About here someone punches him in the mouth. As the crowd rushes off, intoxicated by its new slogan—Break the Glass of the Ruling Class—you can always hear a PL kid yelling through his bullhorn: You're being led by a pig provocateur!


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