It was during one of the interminable, round-the-clock meetings of this large faculty-and-student assembly, the SCC, that this elected delegate to it had an epiphany of sorts. I had listened to numerous radical harangues over several days, most of them oddly dislocated and abstract, but the speakers were fiercely sure of themselves and grossly contemptuous of anything short of fire-eating, maximalist radicalism in confrontation with university authorities. Frequent acclamations of solidarity with African Americans and those fighting American “imperialism” in Vietnam were like reassuring religious ejaculations at a revival meeting.
But one night, late, with many absent and others in the auditorium (in a university building) exhausted and somnolent, a speaker was introduced as the “chairman of the Strike Education Committee,” and he explained to us that a new university would be opened on the Columbia campus with “liberation classes.” This speaker, like many in those days, was dressed to look like the German Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht — a culture hero of the Left — dark turtleneck shirt, wire-rim glasses, short hair. He was to resemble many a radical I would see in action over the next decade in the U.S., England, France, and Italy.