Abbie Hoffman: God-fool of Conscience

“Hoffman is a patriot who has fought the Good Fight to waken his fellow Americans to the cor­ruption of their own tradi­tional ideals. Like Tom Paine, he is a classic example of philosophic and poetic drama­tist of public Ideals”


On behalf of political poet Abbie Hoffman reported ar­rested with friends and a group of Government men over three pounds of cocaine, I wish to share my thoughts:

First I bear witness to his special experience in the hon­orable cause of Peace Protest in the face of violent denial of human civil rights to citizens in America and out of it, especially during course of In­dochinese War activity foisted on this nation by Government. Abbie Hoffman has already been jailed many times for seeking, with peaceful fire and good humored street theatre and astonishing public drama, redress of grievances for the bad luck of the Vietnam War.

Reviled and insulted at first for articulating a now commonly held opinion of that war, he defended himself and others against defeated Gov­ernment accusations of con­spiracy, illegal speech, ges­ture, and public assembly in urging the War end. In this sit­uation he became a hero in a nation engulfed with moral catastrophe, and no man of any generation in right mind can be but grateful for Abbie Hoffman’s inventive national communication of the War’s madness and folly. I remain gratetul for his righteous indignation over the Vietnam War, the moral power of his deeply felt resistance to the injustice of it, and his demon­stration of free Imagination against mass complacency at the mass murder in which we were all involved.

Abbie Hoffman was one of the first souls in the nation to make consciousness sensitive to the Eichmann-like nature of our public War-guilt. Thus any legal case in which he is involved is a matter of deep political consideration, requiring special attention, straight heart judgment, and exquisite moral care that public resentment against him as god-fool of Conscience not crush him in present legal difficulty.

We are now in midst of national scandal of Government misbehavior called Water­gate. High politicians preaching law and order were themselves habitually breaking Bill-of-Rights laws in the interests of the creation of some sort of police state. Patriotism was as usual the refuge of these scoundrels, who wrapped themselves in the language of the flag, in order to trash the Constitu­tion. This is an age-old pattern. Unauthorized wiretap­ping, spying, use of agents­-provocateurs and double agents, spooks, burglaries, police set-ups, official perju­ry, in-government conspiracy to deprive citizens of protection against excess government snooping and illegal infra-war activity, domestic surveillance of political en­emies — this pattern of Watergate crooked-heartedness was precisely the government pat­tern denounced prophetically by Abbie Hoffman.

Some of these same Watergate actors defamed and prosecuted Abbie Hoffman precisely for his vocal and theatrical resistance to their war machine. He too wrapped himself in the flag, threw free money off the balconies of the stock market, wrote forbidden words on his brow, woke the young to national disaster, and practiced exorcism of a black magic operating in the highest reaches of respectable government — illusory statistics, lying, public decep­tion, conspiracy mania even assassination in Vietnam, Operation Phoenix, confessed in public before Congress. Constriction by Government on his own liberty, such as wiretapping, has I believe been proven in court in the course of numerous trials by which the government tried to knock Abbie Hoffman and his peace friends out of action against War and growth of police state.

So I bear witness that Abbie Hoffman is not an ordinary citizen, member of a silent majority of Citizens compli­ant with 1984-style Bureau­cracy and acquiescent to remote-control war. Hoffman is a patriot who has fought the Good Fight to waken his fellow Americans to the cor­ruption of their own tradi­tional ideals. Like Tom Paine, he is a classic example of philosophic and poetic drama­tist of public Ideals, a pamph­leteer and book man, seeking liberty for his country and sanity on its government. His just causes were questions illegal war and police stale, not touched deeply by the courts, till late — they were touched deeply by Abbie Hoffman.

Thus his social position as a leader or theorist of new sur­vival society credits him with deliberation and reason. His present involvement with agents of Drug Bureaucracy over cocaine sale may be questionable, but so may be their involvement with Abbie Hoffman.

In time of communal Apathy synchronous with Abbie Hoffman’s recent disil­lusioned withdrawal to pri­vate life (after crises of his public efforts to confound Government police bureau­cracy and war led him to be attacked left and right), Hoffman is now to be congrat­ulated on an arrest which by its very surprise, its simulta­neous whimsicality and seriousness, re-unites many of his fellow workers once again to resist the steamroller of police state Power crushing another live citizen’s body.

Hoffman’s arrest for co­caine dealing does not bear toward resolution of the real “hard drug” problem in America, in any way shape or form.

Government’s visioned sen­tence of life for Abbie Hoffman resolves no whit the real tormenting drug problem in America, but only adds more pain and hysteria to the scene.

What is the actual “hard drug” mess in America? Poli­ticians, police, drug bureau­crats, and criminal syn­dicates run wild over the public, and over sick junkies, against professional medical­-scientific advisement — greed and money is their addiction and violence and hypocrisy their works.

The real drug problem in America is that government narcotics bureaucracies and organized crime have had a status quo working relationship for decades. This ar­rangement denies legitimate opiate addicts reasonable access to their specific medi­cines. The black market for opiates consequently created serves to increase the number of addicts, not decrease it, serves only to increase the social disorientation of addiction, not cure it, serves to discredit helpless sick citizens, not minister to them. This arrangement increases the pain of addiction.

This ar­rangement profits only Nar­cotics Control Agencies and Organized Crime Networks. Both depend on continued criminalization of addicts to maintain their comple­mentary parasitic existences. Both groups have grown with the growth of the black market they have created. In this situation the medically sick junkie is a victim, treated like a Jew under Hitler driv­en mad in the streets to seek relief from unendurable pain and social degradation im­posed on him by police bu­reaucracy and organized crime.

This moral and political running sore, uncured by self-­righteous anger at heroin addicts, further infected with hysteria by current draconian law, is opened afresh in an operation in which agents of the drug bureaucracy reveal themselves dramatically buying pounds of old Bohemi­an cocaine from Abbie Hoffman and friends. Cocaine in my experience is a drug neither hard nor soft, offering too short a flash for common use, too expensive for psy­chological habit generally, traditionally the sport of self­-indulgent millionaires more recently gaga rock stars.

The seriousness of punish­ment promised by vengeful prosecutors — one of whom characterized Abbie Hoffman’s hapless dabbling in cocaine as “insidious and treacherous as homicide”­ — opens up the great Drug Question — not so much of Hoffman’s legal or moral guilt, which notion is consider­able whimsical in fact. His ar­rest raises the publicly sup­pressed Drug Question: how can we endure longer the total insanity sadism incoherence and incomprehensibility of past and fresh present narcot­ics law politics? Hoffman’s arrest, by its own built-in heaviness of consequence, raises challenge to the entire fabric of law that confuses foolish sensational cocaine or serious philosophic psyche­delics as “hard drugs”, with the strong-habit-forming opiates and over-plentiful brain-cooking amphetamines. How dare Government bu­reaucracy impose penalties on use and sale of hard drugs for the last half-century without providing (as do other countries successfully) reasonably satisfactory easily ac­cessible medical services for the majority of addicts who now outnumber and for 150,000 reasons don’t fit into recent but limited scope of monolithic police-­bureaucracy-supervised methadone maintenance services?

Beyond this colossal inflic­tion of pain on heroin-addicted citizens, present law perpetu­ates discomforting sanctions against marijuana use, contrary to the best counsel of reason and science codified into innumerable public re­ports, and contrary to vast community experience. By what unconstitutional pro­scription of liberty and pur­suit of happiness must the Drug Bureaucracy maintain its heavy criminal penalties for securing gardening and distributing sociable noncommercial quantities of help weed? What state violence is used to suppress herbal cigarette smokes? The soft drug situation remains undefined except by official presumption and violence, confused and complicated by law and crime where it might be simply free of law and crime but regulated as in other societies by common sense of situation.

This ken on Abbie Hoffman’s arrest doesn’t propose encouragement of co­caine spread — it does propose shock dismay and mental re­jection of the idea that life imprisonment for cocaine sale (with no eligibility for parole for 15 to 25 years, depending on pronouncement of the judge) to police is a sane response to the fact of cocaine and its elitist use in USA. Mandatory life for cocaine is neurotic, irrational, a hys­terical swipe at people’s souls, a Polyphemus body crusher punishment, a killer idea — it is not sober social response to cocaine usage and special problems, it is no help to old ladies in the street mugged by ignorant junkies conditioned to depravation violence and pain with police bureaucracy and mafia fattening on the illegality of addiction.

Life in Jail for anti-War Hero Abbie Hoffman and friends is National Folly. Threat of life behind bars for Hoffman over cocaine sale is not an image of Law and Order, it is an image of bu­reaucratic dictatorship and confusion, it is misrule and chaos, National Folly.

I pray with body speech and mind OM AH HUM for courts and government and public to recognize the strange delica­cy and historical charm of the situation in which they are placed together with peace poet Abbie Hoffman. ❖

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 18, 2020