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John Lennon and Paul McCartney in Transit

Scenes

THERE I STOOD, next to Paul McCartney and John Lennon — calm, but without a thing to say. I wasn’t intimidated, but more amazed I had managed to get through an endless skein of Beatlemanic intrigue. But with the aid of my press card there I was, for 15 minutes altogether, with them as they were hustled from one custom’s checkpoint to another last Saturday afternoon. Only while driving back to the city later did I remember that I had forgotten to ask them about all the rumors. Was it true that they were here to denounce the Maharishi? Was it true that they were breaking up and that’s why only two of them had come? Was it true that they were merely in New York to help promote their Apple enterprise into another million dollar Beatle spinoff?

(Tuesday at their press conference it turned out that the only rumor that wasn’t true — as usual — was that they were breaking up. Gently putting down the Maharishi, Lennon said they still meditate now and then but, speaking for all four Beatles, he said they feel they made a mistake about him. “After all we’re only human.”)

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Back at the airport, I did ask Paul if the screaming teenyboppers still turned him on and he said of course. He did a lot of sophisticated waving, and signed autographs for some of the airport personnel. John, more aloof and at times sort of surly, looked pretty tired even in white suit, white shirt, white tie, white shoes, and a plain white button on his lapel. He scrawled autographs without looking at the paper or the beseecher.

There had been reports all week, but the Beatles press people had kept the actual day and time of their arrival a good secret and so only two or three press people were there to greet them. But several thousand frantic crying teenyboppers in last year’s bellbottoms, informed by WMCA Good Guys, were racing all over the International Arrivals building trying to find out where the plane would unload. Watching them float was fantastic. If a girl screamed in one part of the terminal, maybe just out of frustration, a hundred others rushed shrieking in that direction.

After John and Paul left by way of a distant airport exit road in their black Caddy limousine (driven by a chauffeur wearing yellow shades), I headed out through the terminal to my car but a burly airport security supervisor stopped me.

“I can’t convince these kids that the Beatles have left. They just won’t believe someone like me,” he pleaded, while over his shoulder I could see at least a thousand of the tearful faithful trying to get in the doors I had to get out.

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“Someone who looks like you they would believe. You tell them that they left and they’ll all go home.” I said all right.

“Hey kids, this fellow is a reporter and he just had an exclusive interview with the Beatles and …” Two squealing girls grabbed my sleeve and the whole crowd suddenly found me fascinating and they screamed and screeched. I finally got everyone quiet enough to be heard if I yelled. They immediately began planning hurriedly at which hotel they would set up vigils until they could get a glimpse of their idols.

The Beatles are still up there. ❖

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From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES

In Bed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Scenes

I WAS IN TORONTO last week to do an interview for WABC-FM with John and Yoko Ono Lennon; one of the reasons the Lennons were there, as you probably already know, was to announce their “peace festival.” It seems everyone and his greedy brother is slapping together a rock festival, but this one sounds like it might headline the summer’s fare, and include one unique and cozy feature. The entire stage will be in the form of a massive bed, and so this July 3, 4, and 5 the joyful noise of “rock, peace, poetry, and whatever” will be coming from between the sheets. Then the Lennons will be coming from between the sheets. Then the Lennons would like to tuck the whole package in and take it on a world tour, especially to Russia and Czechoslovakia.

When I asked him about the Beatles as an entity, John said casually that they might never play again, then added that they feel that way every time they finish an album. On the other hand, he mentioned that it is getting increasingly hard to fit all their songs on one lp, notably since George has begun to write so prolifically. He did seem sure they would never tour again as a group. As for music, John felt they hadn’t made any dynamic changes since “Sergeant Pepper,” and their music should go further out again. He also denied that the Beatles are leaving the Allan Klein management, and in fact said he liked Klein, not only as a businessman but also as a person.

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When asked why he comes to Canada so often, other than problems with his U.S. visa, John answered, “Because it talks to China.” Another reason why he was there this time was to sign the 5000 copies of his erotic lithographs. In between writer’s cramp and macrobiotic meals (served by two chefs flown in from the Caldron on the Lower East Side), the Lennons planned the next phases of their peace campaign. They just completed their billboard event in Times Square and 10 other major cities, and will present another surprise in Japan by remote control in the next few weeks.

Both John and Yoko seem unaffected that war is even more powerful a piggy now, despite all their dove flutter and commotion. “We believe in selling peace … nobody says to give up Christianity because Christ died.”

Their latest angle will be a “peace poll.” Letters, postcards, or any other voucher from the peace-bent will be sent to a prescribed — as yet to be announced — address. They think that maybe a mountain of this mail can be delivered to one of those masters of war who is impressed by statistics. ❖

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The New Politics: Leaders or Guerrillas

In the last 10 days I have read about 20 sophisticated articles analyzing the results of the 1968 elections. Most of these pieces of punditry contained the same two assumptions — which I believe are misleading, and perhaps paralyzing, illusions.

One is that the election returns are proof of a sharp veering to the right by the electorate. And the other is that the future hope of liberal politics rests with the “new politics” Democrats. I disagree with both these interpretations.

First, George Wallace ran much weaker than most of us anticipated. He carried only five Southern states, for a total of 45 electoral votes. He failed to get the bit white working-class vote in the industrial backwaters of Gary, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. And he did not carry any of the border states such as Kentucky, Maryland, or Texas, that his supporters hoped he would.

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Second, most of the incumbent anti-war Senators and Congressmen were re-elected, despite Nixon’s strength at the top of the ticket. The only really outstanding Congressman to lose was John Dow of New York. And he was elected in 1964 because of the Goldwater debacle, and was re-elected in 1966 only because the Conservative Party in his district ran their own candidate, rather than endorsing the Republican. In the Senate, two incumbent. doves — Wayne Morse and Joseph Clark — lost. But I think they lost not because of their prophetic opposition to the war, but because o( their own prickly personalities, and Morse also lost because Nixon swept Oregon. Fulbright was re-elected, however, even though Wallace took Arkansas, and McGovern won, even though Nixon took South Dakota.

Perhaps more revealing of the mood of the voters was that three pro-war, conservative incumbent Democrats lost their Senate seats — Mike Monroney in Oklahoma, Frank Lausche in the Ohio Democratic primary and Daniel Brewster in Maryland, to young, anti-war Republican Charles Mathias.

And most significantly, I think, were the insurgents who won Congressional races. Harold Hughes, the populist, colorful Governor of Iowa, won his Senate race even though Nixon won by a landslide statewide. Allen Cranston beat right-winger Max Rafferty for the Senate in California. And 39-year-old Tom Eagleton, an early supporter of Robert Kennedy, was elected to the Senate from Missouri.

And in New York, although most of the comment has gone to the Conservative Party’s one million votes, three remarkable freshmen were elected to the House — Edward Koch, Allard Lowenstein, and Shirley Chisholm (in Bedford-Stuyvessnt).

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My second point is based more on speculation and theory than on hard evidence. Many liberal observers are relatively sanguine that the “new politics” coalition can now easily move to consolidate control of the National Democratic Party. And, although it might seem to follow from my first optimistic interpretation, I don’t believe this for a minute.

For one thing, I don’t know what “new politics” means. On the Sunday before the election, I heard Jacob Javits define new politics as “problem solving.” Jesse Unruh and Jack English say they are for new politics. But they are just suburban liberal bosses.

It will not be easy at all for McCarthy, McGovern, or Teddy Kennedy to win the nomination in 1972 without the backing, not just of Unruh, but of Daley and John Connally as well. It is necessary to recall, for example, that Daley actually wanted Teddy Kennedy nominated in Chicago last August.

My own view of the future is that the roots of change are still outside the Democratic Party. The civil rights movement began outside the Democratic Party. So did the anti-war movement. And, although the leaders were Democrats, the “dump Johnson” movement also began outside the party structure. And these movements remain the model of the future.

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I think the focus of what is labeled the new politics should be primarily on movements and issues, and only peripherally on candidates. What most people call the new politics, I call guerrilla politics. Which is different from guerrilla warfare. For the immediate future, I think we have to move freely and quickly in and out of institutions and political parties. The priority is to build a movement against the draft, against the power of the military, and for decentralization and community control. Forget McCarthy or Teddy Kennedy — the pornographers of power will gravitate to them. As Dylan says, “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parkin’ meters.”

In most cases, the Democratic Party is still going to be the enemy of serious change. In New York City, for example, it is already clear that Congressman James Scheuer, an early McCarthy supporter, is running for Mayor on the bitter ashes of the school strike as super-Jew, for law and order, and against decentralization. When that happens, I am for John Lindsay, and I would hope the people who worked for McCarthy would also be for Lindsay.

What I am saying, finally, is that political parties, unions, churches, and personalities, will mean less and less in the future. Guerrilla politics with its emphasis on movement and its commitment to issues, is the best antidote to the banality of Nixon. But first, we must puncture the myth that the election was a mandate for reaction. ❖

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John F. Kennedy at NYU

‘Make It Shine, Make It Move Forward,’ Jack Tells Students

An estimated crowd of 3500, held in check by a small army of police, gathered in front of NYU’s Loeb Student Center on Washington Square South last Thursday to hear a fast, hard-hitting attack on the Republican administration by Senator John Kennedy.

The highly-vocal crowd con­sisted mostly of students, Villag­ers from the vicinity, and three busloads of newsmen traveling with the Presidential candidate’s entourage. There were so many blue-jacketed police accompany­ing Kennedy that they resembled a Union cavalry charge on motor­cycles as they swept down the street.

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“This race is between comfort and concern,” the blond, tanned Kennedy began, speaking from a convertible which also bore Car­mine G. DeSapio. “Let’s see what eight Republican years have done,” Kennedy went on briskly. “We have had three recessions. We are running at only 50 per cent of steel capacity. There are approximately 4 ½ million out of work. And our world position has deteriorated so badly the Admin­istration won’t release the facts.”

The audience lining the side­walks and standing in the park found it difficult to hear Ken­nedy. The Senator obligingly went up to the roof of the student center where microphones had been set up for him.

Image of Uncertainty

“The issues which separate Nixon and I are clear and sharp,” Kennedy continued from the higher altitude. “Nixon has said ‘we never had it so good’ or ‘pres­tige has never been so high.’ I could not disagree more. We will no longer be the leader of the free world unless we regain the confidence of the world. We have an image of uncertainty.”

A small but vociferous group of Nixon boosters in the crowd began to chant: “Nixon will win.”

Kennedy never smiled. But leaning into the microphone he said to them softly: “I’m afraid he won’t.”

Returning to Nixon and the Republican record, Kennedy said: “I don’t think a man who has had 40 accidents should be given a new driver’s license.” He went on to criticize sharply the Re­publican handling of African and Asian affairs, stating the Admin­istration had “shamefully” neg­lected the opportunity to bring foreign students here and send American teachers abroad.

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As Kennedy concluded his rap­id-fire indictment of Republicanism, he pointed to what appeared to be a large group of students who were cheering him across the itreet. “How many of you will be willing to pick this country up,” he asked “make it shine — make it move forward again?”

The Kennedy columns closed ranks again, roaring off to another speech amid shrieking sirens and a broken chant from the students of “Let’s back Jack.” ❖

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EQUALITY ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Malcolm X vs. Bayard Rustin: Black on Black

I left Community Church some months ago with mixed feelings. The occasion was a so-called debate between Malcolm X. and Bayard Rustin, and the topic was “Separation and Integration.” Being a pacifist, a Negro, and one who has been involved in the racial struggle lately, I expected to be with Mr. Rustin all the way and against Mr. X. completely. My mixed feelings were the result of the discovery that I was applauding more for Malcolm X. than I was for Bayard Rustin.

During the debate — actually it was more a statement of position on both their parts — it seemed to me as though Bayard Rustin were taking the position of the “radical middle.” I know, of course, that this is not the case with Mr. Rustin, but it seemed so as I listened. There is no question in my mind but that he presented the saner attitude, yet the amazing thing was how eloquently Malcolm X. stated the problems which Negroes have confronted for so many years. The biggest difficulty about listening to him — especially for a Negro — is that he wraps the problem up so neatly that one is almost carried on into his faulty conclusions by the wealth of emotions he evokes.

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World of Good

I must confess that it did my heart a world of good to sit back and listen to Mr. X. list the sins of the white man toward the black man in America. He does it well. I daresay that if I were not already convinced of the efficacy of looking on humans as humans rather than as black, white, or any of the shades in between, I might have joined the Black Muslims forthwith.

For too many years, black Americans have not been able to look at white Americans as the same kind of humans, for the most part, and have been placed in a situation where they must make the white man feel comfortable. If they don’t — especially in the South — it can be a matter of life and death.

In his short story “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon,” James Baldwin explains this conundrum. He has the narrator of the story, a Negro who “has it made” In Europe, re­turning to Alabama for a while. The narrator admits that he didn’t ”despise them (the white people) any more than everyone else did, only the others never let it show. They knew how to keep white folks happy, and it was easy — you just had to keep them feeling like they were God’s favor to the universe.”

The point at which I depart from Malcolm X. and the Black Muslims is the very point at which I wish they were strongest. They seem to want to set up a black superiority to replace a white superiority. Both are equally bad. Bayard Rustin stated the case as I see it very well when he said that the question which faces the black man is not what he can do to add to their (the whites’) doom, but what can be done to help in their redemption. He went on to substantiate my own thoughts further by saying that “whether white men like it or not, we need to force them into being their best.”

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Faces it Squarely

One of the many good things I can say about Mr. Rustin’s pro­cess of thinking is that he re­fuses to equivocate about the problem; he faces it squarely. Few of us are either able or willing to do this. I only wish that more Negroes in the van­guard of the movement for ra­cial equality could do it as well as he does.

I might mention my surprise in discovering — according to Mr. Rustin, and with his opponent’s “amen” — that no other Negro leader was even willing to talk with Mr. X. on the same plat­form. When I asked someone about this, I got the shoddy re­ply that “no one should dignify the Black Muslims by appearing together with them in public.”

Dignify them indeed! I am only glad that I heard this from a white liberal rather than from a Negro — though I strongly sus­pect that many Negroes feel the same way. Well, we had better begin realizing that we surely can’t “un-dignify” the Muslims. Like it or not, their audience is growing larger and their voices are becoming stronger.

One of Malcolm X.’s most salient points against Mr. Rus­tin’s arguments was that he, Malcolm X., is not trying reach the middle-class Negro; the Muslims have already recog­nized that the middle-class Ne­gro, for the most part, is not about to risk too much in the cause of raising the level of the masses of black people who seldom have either a decent place to live or a decent way of earning a living. “We talk on the streets,” Malcolm X. said, “and on the corners because the man in the street is the one who is catching hell.” And perhaps that is who needs to be reached.

After reaching him, though, what do you tell him? This is where I earnestly wish that Mr. Rustin and Mr. X. could see eye to eye.

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Let Him Simmer

The Black Muslim position is that since the white man has had so long to do right if he really planned to do so, we might as well accept the fact that he is either unwilling or in­capable of doing so. Therefore, they say, let’s just get away from this devil; let him simmer in his own stew. Messenger Eli­jah Muhammad has said: “Do thank Allah for revealing this evil, deceitful, open enemy, ‘the devil!'” He says that “they, the white race, cannot treat you and me with justice … ” Knowing what I do about how evil some people can be, I am almost will­ing to agree with the Messen­ger. But since some of my best friends are white — and my ton­gue is not in m cheek — I can­not make a blanket statement about the devilishness of white men with all honesty.

If only the black movement which is “recognized” by the white liberals in America could have the verve and sense of dedication of Messenger Muhammad: if only the Black Muslims could have the sense of “un­-apartheid” which most black liberals hare. But perhaps that’s asking too much.

I ought to make it manifest here that I am certainly not going to be placed among those who deride the Black Muslims. While I cannot, on good consci­ence, agree with their accept­ance of separateness, or their “meet violence with violence” doctrine for ameliorating racial problems in America, I do feel they are playing an important role as a catalyst for both black and white who move too slowly. It’s a cinch that if there were enough black liberals who be­lieved strongly enough in their own position — as do the Muslims — we wouldn’t have such a hard row to hoe now.

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Biggest Problem

The biggest problem, I guess, is getting enough people to do what they say they believe. It was interesting to hear again Bayard Rustin’s theory of “so­cial dislocation,” and I have heard him explain it many times. But somehow, in the set­ting ot the Community Church, and with Malcom X. in the background, the theory seemed to make more sense to me. Rus­tin’s idea, to put it in his own words, is that “social dislocation (the use of mass action — really mass action — in order to realize social, political, and economic equality) can be accomplished by using the bodies of masses of Negroes in order to uproot the system of segregation … to make segregated institutions impossible to exist.”

Of course, this is not the first time the same sort of idea has been set forth, but my feeling is that Mr. Rustin means precisely what he says. There are few instances in my own mem­ory where “recognized” Negro leaders have said this and have put it into practice (Farmer, Abernathy, Shuttlesworth, and some of the Negro students are exceptions). I don’t mean to dis­parage others — many of them are doing an excellent job in other areas — but “social dislocation” the way Rustin talks about it just hasn’t been tried as much as it should have been.

It is understandable why it hasn’t been tried. My own short sojourn in a Southern jail makes me wonder it I am equal to the task. But if “social dislocation” is what is called for, then I cer­tainly am willing. It will be after I have tried it again for me to discover my capabilities for withstanding the pressures, but I am, nonetheless, willing. As I dream of the day when masses of Negroes will rise to the call, I keep humming to myself an old spiritual we used to sing: “Here am I send me.”

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As I think over that night at Community Church, James Baldwin’s “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon” again comes to mind. The narrator, speaking of his sister, says that “all the white people she has ever met needed, in one way or another, to be reassured, consoled, to have their consciences pricked but not blasted” (italics mine).

Much to the surprise of many white liberals that night at Community Church, both Malcom X. and Bayard Rustin not only pricked but blasted their consci­ences. As a matter of fact, many black liberals were surprised to find a certain unpredicted rap­port between Malcom X. and Bayard Rustin. I am glad this “myth of the rift” was exposed.

Somehow the press has had a journalistic orgasm over the dif­ferences of opinion which occur between various factions of the movement for equality among Negoes today. I hope white lib­erals aren’t fooled by this. Sure­ly, there are differences of ap­proach, program, attitudes, and even methods of resolution of the many problems black people in America are facing. But be ye not deceived. The movement will press forward despite dif­ferences.

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Needs Allies 

As Bayard Rustin pointed out, “the movement needs white allies.” I agree. However, the movement will not rely on these allies fully — though it will welcome their assistance with open arms — but will have a broad base among Negroes of many philosophical and social disciplines.

The white man, inimical or otherwise, had better cultivate an understanding of this because, willy or nilly, there is going to be change. ❖

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ACTIVISM ARCHIVES FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Report From Prague: Viewing a Disaster

What follows is a simple eye­witness account of two days in Prague under Soviet occupation. This is a report, not an analysis or a commentary. It is because I know that every “Cold War­rior” welcomes the events in Prague that I must note simply that bad as the invasion was it does not compare to the United States actions in Vietnam where a million or more have died. Prague and Saigon are linked, symbols of the contempt great powers have for the right of smaller nations to self-determination. Let all those who so easily demand immediate and complete Soviet withdrawal apply that same standard to the situation in Vietnam.

I had gone to Europe to attend two working conferences, one in Vienna (War Resisters International) and the other in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace). Between the conference was a space of four days and I chose to spend that time in Prague as vacation. I arrived there on Saturday evening, August 17. I was due to leave early Wednesday morning, August 21.

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Other American radicals in Prague spent their time to good advantage, seeing student leaders, liberal writers, political figures. I simply wandered aim­lessly, having fallen under the charm of the city, the most beau­tiful I’ve seen in Europe. I stood in church on Sunday morning listening to the chants and smelling the incense. I visited the old Jewish cemetery, the most tragic graveyard I’ve ever seen, filled with thousands of tombstones leaning on one another for comfort in their eternal sorrow. Graveyards are places where the living come, the sons and daughters and the grandchildren, to honor their ancestors. Graveyards fascinate me, for they are not a symbol of an end, but proof of beginnings — here we stand, observing the gravestones, and there lie the ancestors from which we have sprung. Between the living and the dead there is a silent communion. But in the Jewish cemetery, carefully enclosed by high old walls, there was the chilling knowledge that only death was there, for those who should have come to lay flowers had perished in the death camps. The ancestors lay there beneath the stone tablets and only tourists visited, stran­gers to the family. I wept twice in Prague and the first time was when I spent an hour wandering through this silent field of graves.

I roamed through the National Museum, drank beer in small cafes, and walked out on the Charles Bridge to take pictures of the chalk drawings done by the long-haired young rebels­ — slogans in English against the war in Vietnam and slogans in German against Ulbricht. I walk­ed down the broad main street, Vaclavske Namesti, watched stu­dents in Wenceslas Square, and stood listening to debates in the “Hyde Park” of Prague, a little square off Na Prikope.

And in this way I spent my time. I had some contacts through Allen Ginsberg but they were never home when I phoned. By Tuesday night, my last night in Prague, I felt sharp pangs of guilt that I had not been more “responsible” and ” political” in looking people up. I wandered Prague late Tuesday night, until it was a city asleep and moving toward dawn. (At 11 p.m. invasion forces crossed the frontier). I got to bed at 2:30 a.m. (At that hour Russian air­craft had landed at Prague air­port.) I slept fitfully, waking once at 5:30 a.m. to the roar of jets. I slept again until 6:30 a.m. when I had to get up to catch my early flight to Yugoslavia. I went down for coffee and sensed a crisis in the air — Rude Pravo, Communist Party daily, had appeared with large headlines and printed on only one side of the sheet. At one point the Czechs in the room stood by the window and I joined them to watch tanks roll by in the streets below. Still groggy with sleep I took it for granted they were Czech tanks (who else would have tanks in Prague?). I finish­ed my coffee, packed, and then, a thin edge of anxiety working through my mind, went down to the main lobby to make sure the airport was not affected by what­ever crisis had brought Czech tanks into Prague at 8 a.m. There at the front desk I found this note:

American Embassy advises (5:50 a.m.) American citizens to stay where they are. Listen to the Voice of America at 1200 KC (if you were foresighted enough to bring a radio). Stay off streets.”

It was now just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, August 21.

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I went out in front of our hotel, the Hotel Flora on Vino­hradska Street, about 12 blocks from the center of town. I watched tanks and troop carriers roll by. Czechs stood weeping openly on the streets, gathered in small quiet groups. And now, for the second time in Prague, I wept. I had profoundly identified with the Czech experiment in “Communist democracy.” The Russians had done more than in­vade Czechoslovakia — they had sent their damn tanks crashing into our skulls, they had invaded the hopes of socialists all over the world.

There was an unreal quality to the invasion. The troops were all in trucks or tanks, not on foot. The sidewalks belonged to us, where we stood silent and unmoving. The streets belonged to the tanks. Tanks are ugly things. They were filled with young Russians, men who had been told they were going on maneuvers and found out they were invaders of a socialist country. They were frightened. The troop carriers had machine guns mounted on the front and men with automatic rifles watching the windows and roofs of the buildings they pass­ed. In the distance one could hear the harmless toyish sound of automatic weapons being fired — a kind of “pop—pop—pop.” People moved along the streets, lining up at food stores — which were virtually the only stores open. The streetcars were not running and few cars were on the streets. I had shot my last frame of film Tuesday evening and had to hike for several blocks to find a drug store open where I could buy some film. I came back, then, having seen Russian troop carriers lining the road all the way toward town, as if they were in a traffic jam. I shot some tanks with a telephoto lens from my hotel window.

Perhaps it was because we were motionless on the sidewalks, while the Russians sped by in trucks and tanks, that the invasion was like a dream. The tanks were motorized images, with which the population was not interacting, only observing. It was not yet noon but the resist­ance was beginning, as a car moved down the street throwing out mimeographed copies of Rude Pravo. Then it was noon and the first organized resistance began. A young man pulled his bicycle into the street and block­ed traffic — which consisted, actu­ally, of a single Czech truck which pulled over to one side. Horns began to blare for a two­-minute general strike. At that moment, with the kid in the street and the horns blaring, a Soviet troop carrier came shoot­ing down the street. The kid held his ground, perhaps paralyzed with fear or courage, but it would have made no difference to the troop carrier which wasn’t even slowing down. At the final moment, as most of us nervous­ly pulled away from the corner, fearful of gunfire or seeing the boy run down, an older man moved out from the crowd, put his arm gently around the boy and the bike, and guided him to one side of the street. The troop carrier shot by without ever having paused.

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A student walked past our hotel, moving away from the center of town, holding a large Czech flag.

Radio Prague went off the air early, and Radio Pilsen began broadcasting. It used German, Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Polish as well as Czech — it was beaming its appeal to the invading Warsaw Pact troops, explaining there was no basis for the invasion, that socialism was safe, the invasion illegal. It was also urging the population not to provoke an incident but simply not to cooperate. Radio Pilsen went off the air while I slept in the afternoon out other stations then came on and the Russians, having forgotten to bring tracking equipment with them, could do nothing.

The dream quality came back at dinner, for the Flora is a first class hotel with an excellent restaurant presided over by an imperious head-waiter. We all went to our tables, ordered cocktails or wines and our dinner as if nothing had happened. People chatted in the muted luxury of the Flora, they ate and drank quietly. Outside, somewhere, Czechs were organizing. Some were dying. Some were already dead.

All night long there was the buzzing of motorbikes back and forth through the city. The students were organizing. The underground papers were now being printed, having found presses. About 9:30 p.m. I took another walk toward the center of town, and found out why the line of Russian troop carriers had been backed up earlier in the day.

The Czechs had built up a barricade about 10 blocks from the hotel and two blocks from the National Museum, trying to stop the tanks from getting to the radio station. When I got there I saw a fantastic tangle of burned out streetcars, buses, trucks, and debris — including at least one Soviet truck half blown up and hurled into a side street. This was where the firing had been coming from in the morning and some had been killed — no precise figures. (Note — in fair­ness to the Russians, they generally fired into the air and no estimate of the dead exceeded 30 for the first day, about par for an American riot.) Hundreds of people were milling around the barricade, while the Russians were staying discreetly in their trucks a block away. It is report­ed that at least one Russian tank was set on fire during the morn­ing at this barricade area.

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The milling of so many people made me nervous and I went back to the hotel and it was about 11 p.m. when, looking out my window, I saw fireworks coming from the area where I had just been. Beautiful orange rockets going up in the air. I didn’t understand why fireworks should be going off and went to the window for a closer look. Suddenly the crowd in the street below me broke and ran as if a heavy summer shower had hit them. I leaned farther out to see why they were running for shelter when I heard a “flick” against the building near my win­dow and realized the fireworks were tracer bullets and they were falling in our area.

Suddenly my window, large enough in any case, seemed to fill the whole wall, offering the entire room as a target. I scrambled for the side of my bed where I stayed for perhaps two minutes when I realized that even though the firing was getting closer (the gentle almost lazy “pop—pop—pop” had shifted to a a harsher “tat—tat—tat”), with tracer bullets you could see which way the fire was going. I edged back to the window and standing at one side watched the tracers climb into the sky. I had never realized before that bullets had a “finite speed,” that you could see the graceful blazes of orange climb slowly like Roman candles, and, like Roman candles, wink out.

So Wednesday came to an end. The Czech army had put up no resistance, on direct orders of the party. The only real fighting anywhere near us had occurred around the makeshift barricade 10 blocks away. But it was already clear that non-violent resistance was taking place. When I woke up Thursday it was clear at once that the Russians had made three mistakes. First, they had waited eight months too long. The Czechs, once the most docile of Communist populations, had enjoyed eight months of genuine press and radio freedom. Free­dom, like tyranny, can become a habit. Second, the Russians had assumed they would have some support from within the country and, as it turned out, they had no support at all. Third, they let the first 24 hours pass without any decisive action.

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The Russians may well have assumed, having seized the radio and tv, the airport and the train station, and having surrounded the National Assembly, arrested Dubcek, and sealed off every large area that might have been used for demonstrations, that they had “won.” Certainly their actions had been decisive, total, overwhelming. They had encoun­tered no effective or organized resistance. They had occupied the city. But it became obvious they didn’t know what to do with a population that “refused to re­cognize them.” They had failed to shoot the occasional flag­-carrying student on that first day. They had not counted on the underground radio and tv.

They had not, it seems, thought about the problems of suppress­ing illegal papers, and Thursday one could see that manifestos and leaflets and papers were every­where in evidence. Posters had gone up on all buildings. Trains had ”SVOBODA — DUBCEK” chalked on their sides. Trucks and cars had posters draped over their fronts. Signs in Russian were everywhere telling the troops to leave as well as signs in Czech urging no support for collaboration and no cooperation with the traitors Moscow was seeking to install as a provisional government. The national flag began to appear in apartment windows. Half the people on the streets were wearing bits of rib­bon showing the national colors. Police cars (Czech police) carried large Czech flags. A spe­cial appeal to the occupying ar­my had been printed up. The Czechs were also churning out short leaflets in French, English, and German to make sure the tourists understood the situation. Their radio was still on the air, and this gave the citizens hope. People grouped themselves around little portable radios. People appeared on the streets with petitions and other people stopped and signed the petitions.

An ambulance corps had been organized, and civilian cars flying red cross flags shot up and down the streets. The people were beginning to give a loud whistle when the tanks clanked past (this being something in the nature of a hiss). The Russians had taken Prague but they had not managed to capture its people.

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I went for a long walk Thurs­day afternoon, at one point walk­ing directly under the gun of a Soviet tank, to get down to the National Museum and see if — as rumored — it had been burned out. (It hadn’t been, although along with a number of apartment buildings that I saw, its facade had been heavily raked with machine gun fire, breaking most of the windows.) What I did see, and found incredible, was that every Russian tank and every Russian troop carrier was sur­rounded by groups of Czechs. Whatever spontaneous spitting or rock throwing may have occurred early Wednesday was gone — the crowds were arguing, pleading, explaining. I remember one tank on which a student was perched reading some manifesto to the two Russians sitting in the tank. If the image the West has of the Hungarian uprising in 1953 was a youth throwing stones at a tank, the image from Prague was one of dialogue and verbal confronta­tion.

(I learned that on Wednesday night all the bars had been closed to prevent anyone from getting drunk and charging at tanks. The radio broadcast steady appeals for calm, for no provocation and no cooperation.)

I walked into Wenceslas Square and found the main street leading into it filled with thousands upon thousands of persons. As I watch­ed, two truckloads of Czech stu­dents drove up waving flags and headed straight for a Soviet tank which, somewhat to my sur­prise, yielded the right of way.

My time in Prague was draw­ing to an end. I walked back to the hotel, realizing that I under­stood at last what a student had meant when I asked him, early in my stay, what would happen if the Russians invaded. He said, “For us they will not be here.” Shortly after 5 p.m. the Ameri­can Embassy notified us of a special train leaving for Vienna. We got taxis and boarded the train. ❖

Categories
FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives

The Threshold and the Jolt of Pain

Personal Testament

Like most boys in their teens, I wondered once in a while how I would take torture. Badly, I thought. Later I thought not so badly, as I saw myself under the pressures of danger or emergency, once when a lion cub grabbed my hand in its mouth and I wrestled its lips for half a minute with my free hand. Another summer when I fought forest fires in a crew of Indians in the West, we stood up under intense heat and thirst, watching the fires crackle toward us irresistibly while we waited to see whether the fire lines that we had cut were going to bold. I climbed over the lip of a high waterfall; I scratched inside a hippo­potamus’s capacious jaws; I faced a pistol one day in Wyoming with some degree of fortitude. However, I knew all this elan would vanish if my sexual glands were approached. The initiation to join the Boy Scouts in our town was to have one’s balls squeezed, so I never joined. Even to have my knuckle joints ground together in a handshake contest reduced me to quick surrender something about bone on bone. I steered clear of the BB-gun fights in my neighborhood, and I could be caught in a chase and tied up easily by someone slower who yelled as if he were gaining ground, so I made friends with most of the toughies as a defensive measure.

I was much given to keeping pets and showering care on them, but I had a sadistic streak as well. In boarding school, my roommate got asthma attacks when he was jumped on, and I always backed away laughing when his tormentors poured into the room. There was another, rather nice boy, whom I seldom picked on myself. With sincere horror I watched a game grip the Florentine fancy of our corridor, wherein we, the inmates, divided in teams, pushed him back and forth as a human football from goal to goal. Since his name was Bingham, the game was either called that or else “Pushes.” The crush at the center, where he was placed, was tremendous and, though no one remembered, I’d thought it up!

My first love affair was with a Philadelphian, a girl 27. That is, she was the girl whom I slept with first. She was a love in the sense she loved me. I was close and grateful to her but didn’t love her (I’d loved one girl earlier whom I hadn’t slept with). She lived in one of those winsome houses that they hav·e down there, with a tiled backyard, three floors, and three rooms. We wandered along the waterfront and spent Saturdays at the street market, which is the largest and visually richest street market in the United States. I really was not an ogre to her, but I did by stages develop the habit of beating her briefly with my belt or hairbrush before we made love, a practice which I have foregone ever since. This experience gives me a contempt for pornography of that arch, gruesome genre, quite in vogue nowa­days as psychological “exploration,” where whipping occurs but the flesh recovers its sheen overnight and the whippee doesn’t hang her (him) self one fine strapping dawn, propelling the whipper into the nervous breakdown which he is heading for.

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I saw eventual disaster ahead and I didn’t go deeply into this vein of sensation, just as I was shrewd enough as a boy not to be picked on often or to suffer more than a few accidents. Once I ran my hand through an apple-crusher and once I imitated a child’s stutter at summer camp, thereby (or so I imagined) picking the malady up at age six. Almost my only pangs, then, were this stutter, which still remains in my mouth after twenty-nine years. It may strike other people as more than a spasm of pain of a kind which I haven’t time for or time to regard as anything else. It’s like someone who has a lesion or twist in his small intestine which hurts him abruptly and of which he is hardly aware anymore. The well-grooved wince that I make seems to keep my face pliant and reasonably young.

Somerset Maugham described his bitter discovery when he was a boy that prayer was no help: He woke up next morning still clamped to his adamant stutter. I was more of a pantheist, so I kept trusting to the efficacy of sleep itself, or the lilting lift that caused birds to fly. Also I went to a bunch of speech therapists. At the Ethical Culture School in New York, for example, a woman taught me to stick my right hand in my pocket and write the first letter of the word I was stuttering on again and again. This was supposed to distract me from stuttering, and it did for a week or two. The trouble was that watching me play pocket pool that way was more unsettling to other people than the original ailment it was meant to cure. At a camp in northern Michigan I was trained by a team from the university to speak so slowly that in effect I wasn’t speaking at all, I spoke with the same gradualism as a flower grows. Of course I didn’t stutter, but it was so absurdly tardy a process my mind unhinged itself from what was going on. Then, in Cambridge, Mas­sachusetts, a young fellow fresh out of the University of Iowa — and oh how he stuttered! — took the most direct approach. He got me to imitate myself deliberately, which was hard on me since I was already terribly tired of stuttering, and to stare, as well, at the people whom I was talking to in order to find out what their reactions were. I found out, for one thing, that some of my friends and about one fourth or one fifth of the strangers I met smiled when the difficulty occurred, though they generally turned their heads to the side or wiped their mouths with one hand to avoid the smile. Life seemed simpler from that time on if I avoided looking at anybody when I was stuttering badly, whoever he was, and I wasn’t so edgily on the alert to see if I’d spit inadvertently. Not that I lacked understanding for the smilers, though, because for many years I too had had the strange impulse, hardly controllable, to smile if somebody bumped his head on a low door-lintel or received sad news. The phenomenologists say this is a form of defense. It goes with childhood especially, and I stopped indulging in it one night in Boston when I was in a police patrol wagon. A friend and I had been out for a walk, he was hit by a car, and, as he woke from unconsciousness during the ride and asked what had happened, I found myself grinning down at him while I answered. A week or two later I was walking past an apartment building just as a rescue squad carried a would-be suicide out to the street. He was alive, on a stretcher. When our eyes touched, he smiled impenetrably, but I didn’t.

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I learned not to write notes. You put yourself at someone’s mercy more when you write him a note than if you just stand there like a rhinoceros and snort. He will assume that your trouble is mental rather than physical and may even be pleased, but he usually has assumed the same thing about himself.

I could write a Stutterer’s Guide to Europe, too: the titters in old Vienna, the knowing English remembering their King, the raw scorching baitings I met with in Greece, surrounded sometimes like a muzzled bear. The fourth means of effecting a cure which I heard about was based on the fact that stutterers are able to sing without stuttering. The victim should swing his arm like a big pendulum and talk in time to this — which was obviously a worse fate than his impediment. Though I didn’t try it, I was sent to a lady voice teacher who laid my hand on her conspicuous chest so that I could “feel her breathe.” For the moment the lessons worked wonderfully. If I wasn’t speechless, I spoke in a rush.

Stammering (a less obtrusive word I used to prefer) apparently is not unattractive to women. It’s a masculine encumbrance; five times as many men as women do it. I was told once or twice by girls by way of a pick-me-up that they’d loved someone “for” his stutter, and when I went into my spasms at parties, if a woman didn’t step back she stepped forward whereas the men did neither. The female instinct does not apply nearly so favorably to other afflictions — I was seldom alone while I was in Europe. In our glib age the stutterer has even been considered a kind of contemporary hero, a supposed Honest Man who is unable to gab with the media people. Beyond the particular appeal of this image, it does seem to suit a writer. Publishers are fastidious types, and some whom I’ve met have sidled away in distress from my flabbering face as soon as they could, but they probably remembered my name if they caught it. The purity image or Billy Budd stuff didn’t intrigue them, just the hint of compulsion and complexity. Though I don’t greatly go for either picture, in social terms I’ve thought of my stutter as sort of miasma behind the Ivy League-looking exterior. People at parties take me for William Buckley until I begin, so I keep my mouth shut and smile prepossessingly just as long as I can.

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Being in these handcuffs vocally made me a desperate, devoted writer at twenty. I worked like a dog, choosing each word. I wrote two full-length novels — eight years’ work — in iambic meter and a firehose style. We sent out 300 review copies of the second of these and received, I think, only three reviews. This was new pain, a man’s career pain, with its attendant stomach trouble and neck and back cramps. A couple of years after that I got divorced, and bawled like a half-­butchered bull for maybe an hour, rolled up on the floor of my apartment, while the two homosexuals next door listened in silence close to the wall, wondering whom they ought to contact. It was a purge, but the pain I remember of that experience was an earlier scene. I’d announced to my wife, whom I loved and still love, my belief that we needed to separate. The next time we talked, she crossed the room, came to my chair and knelt beside my knees, and asked what was going to become of each of us. That is the most painful splinter in my life, the most painful piece of the past. With variations the ache was prolonged through many, many fugitive suppers. In fact, we still meet, holding hands, laughing at each other’s jokes until we feel tears.

Who knows which qualities are godly? Pain probably makes us a bit godly, though, as tender love does. It makes us rue and summarize, it makes us bend and yield up ourselves. Pain is a watchdog medically, telling us when to consult a doctor, and then it’s the true-blue dog at the bedside who rivals the relatives for fidelity. Last summer my father died of cancer. We had made peace, pretty much, a few years before. Though he had opposed my desire to be a writer, he ended up trying to write a book, too, and he turned over to me at the last an old family history which he’d been hiding ever since I’d become literate, partly because it mentioned a lot of muteness among my ancestors and partly in order to prevent my exploiting the stories. My voice and my liberal opinions grew a little more clarion in the household during the months he was dying. From my standpoint, I suppose, I was almost ready for him to die, but I was very earnestly sorry for every stage of rough handling involved in the process and for his own overriding regret that his life was cut off. Having lost our frank fear of death along with our faith in an afterlife, we all have taken our fear of pain as a feeble alternative. Our regret, too, is magnified. When he was in discomfort, I stuttered a very great deal, but when he was not, when he was simply reminiscing or watching TV and talking to me, I stuttered scarcely a bit. Then, as he was actually dying, during our last interview, he turned on the bed and asked me something. My answer was blocked in my mouth and his face went rigid with more pain than mine — that my infirmity was still there unhealed. He was startled because in the exigencies of dying he had forgotten. He straightened, shutting his eyes, not wanting to end his life seeing it.

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Nevertheless, he’d often told me that it was my problems he loved me for rather than my successes and sleekness. He loved my sister for being waiflike and my mother for being on occasion afraid she was mentally ill. We were quite hardy while the months passed. Mother and he lay side by side on the bed clasping hands. Until nearly the end, because of the pills, he was not suffering pain of the magnitude he had dreaded. The last couple days it was a tossing and pitching, horrific pain, but the body more than the mind was responding — the body attempting to swallow its tongue. What I remember, therefore, of death’s salutation to him was that death came as a tickler, making his withered body twitch, touching him here, touching him there, wasting his tissues away like a white wax, while his head on the headrest above looked down and watched, or he’d shoot an acute glance at me from out of the hunching amalgam of pricks, jactitation, and drug-induced torpor. Death tickled him in a gradual crescendo, taking its time, and with his ironic attorney’s mind, he was amused. His two satisfactions were that he was privy to its most intimate preparations, everything just-so and fussy, and that at last the long spiky battling within the family was over and done. The new summer blossomed. In mid-June I saw what is meant by “a widow’s tears.” They flow in a flood of tremulous vulnerability, so that one thinks they will never stop.

Most severe on the physiologists’ scale of pain is that of childbirth. It’s also the worst that I’ve seen. A year had gone by since I’d left the army and quit visiting my Philadelphia friend. She came to New York, looked me up, discovered me vomiting, thin as a rail because of girl trouble, and moved in with me on the Upper West Side, spooning in food and mothering me. Then about the time I had perked up, she was able to confirm that she had got pregnant by a chap back in Philadelphia.

We drew out our savings and started for San Francisco, that vainglorious, clam-colored city. In her yellow convertible, with my English setter and her cocker spaniel, we drove through the South and through Texas, taking Highway 80 because it was the cold part of autumn. In Mississippi I remember whenever I shouted at one of the dogs, if he was slow peeing, any Negro who happened to be close about would turn to see what I wanted, quite naturally, as if I had called. It was a grueling trip. I’d begun vomiting again after she’d told me that she was pregnant, and she was suffering mysterious pains in that region between her legs, which no druggist would touch with a telephone pole. But we reached Russian Hill and established ourselves in one of the local apartment hotels. For a while during the seven-month wait the arrangement didn’t work out and she moved to a Florence Crittenton home and I went to the beach, but we ended the period together. At six one morning I drove her up to a whelk-pink hospital on a breezy hill and sat in the labor room for eight hours, watching the blue grid of stretch marks on her anguished stomach — medieval pain. She jolted and heaved and screamed, squeezing my hand, sucking gas from a cup and falling asleep between the throes. I needed three days to stop shaking, though it was a normal delivery throughout and she, by the mental safety catch which women have, had blocked off most of the memory by the time she was wheeled to her room, asleep. I’m ashamed to say that I’d spanked her a little the night before, and I never spanked her again.

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The contract she’d signed obliged my friend to relinquish the baby girl to the Home for three weeks, after which she could appropriate her completely as her own. I was privileged to keep her breasts flowing during those weeks, a luxury that would have been fitting for Zeus, and to the astonishment of the Home, as soon as the interval expired we showed up for the child. They wondered whether we were kidnappers, this was so rare. Then we drove East. The baby acquired a father before she was out of her infancy, and is now about ten.

So pain is a packet of chiseling tools. Women in labor make no bones about protesting its severity. Neither does a dying man once he has stopped lingering with the living — thinking of the memories of his behavior which he is leaving for his children, for instance. It’s when we have no imperative purpose in front of our sufferings that we think about “bearing up”; “bearing up” is converted to serve as a purpose. Pain, love, boredom and glee and anticipation or anxiety — these are the pilings we build our lives from. In love we beget more love and in pain we beget more pain. Since we must like it or lump it, we like it. And why not, indeed? ❖

1968 personal memoir in the Village Voice about stuttering

1968 personal memoir in the Village Voice about stuttering

1968 personal memoir in the Village Voice about stuttering

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES FRINGE ARCHIVES From The Archives

Remarks on Timothy Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy

‘Christmas in Earth’

By the late ’40s of this memory Century the people I knew best and loved the most had already broken through the crust of old Reason & were dowsing for some Supreme Reality, Christmas on Earth Rimbaud said, Second Religiousness according to Spengler’s outline of civilization declining through proliferation of non-human therefore boring technology; Blake had called “O Earth O Earth return!” centuries before, echoing the ancient gnostic prophecy that Whitman spelled out for America specifically demanding that the Steam-engine “be confronted and met by at least equally subtle and tremendous force-infusion for purposes of spiritualization, for the pure conscience, for genuine aesthetics, and for absolute and primal manliness and womanliness —” Ezra Pound’s mind jumped to diagnose the dimming of the world’s third Eye: “With Usura the line grows thick.”

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One scholar who transmitted Blake’s kabbalah, S. Foster Damon, can remember his sudden vision of tiny flowers carpeting Harvard Yard violet before World War One, an image that lingers over 60 years in mind since his fellow student Virgil Thomson gave him the cactus Peyote to eat. Damon concludes that rare beings like Blake are born with physiologic gift of such vision, continuous or intermittent. William James, whose pragmatic magic probably called the Peyote God to Harvard in the first place, had included shamanistic chemical visions among the many authentic “Varieties of Religious Experience.” His student Gertrude Stein experimented in alteration of consciousness through mindfulness of language, an extremely effective Yoga since mechanical reproduction of language by XX Century had made language the dominant vehicle of civilized consciousness; her companion Alice B. Toklas contributed a cookbook recipe for Hashish Brownies to enlighten those persons over-talkative in drawing rooms unaware that “the medium is the message.”

This synchronism is exquisite: William S. Burroughs also once of Harvard shared Miss Stein’s mindfulness of the hypnotic drug-like power of language, and collaborated on cut-up rearrangement of stereotyped language forms with friend Brion Gysin, who had originally given Miss Toklas the recipe for her famous Brownies. Burroughs among others had begun experiments with drug-shamanism after World War Two — for the author of “Naked Lunch” it was a pragmatic extension of his Cambridge interest in linguistic Anthropology. That same gnostic impulse broke through to clear consciousness simultaneously in many American cities: Gary Snyder realized the entire universe was alive one daybreak 1948 in Poland when a flight birds rose out of the tree stillness in a gully by the city river, a natural vision — The masters of the Berkeley Renaissance read Gertrude Stein aloud and practiced Poetic kabbalah (charming synchronism that psychologist Timothy Leary met poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan in that same 1948 student scene) — Neal Cassady drove Jack Kerouac to Mexico in a prophetic automobile to see the physical body of America, the same Denver Cassady that one decade later drove Ken Kesey’s Kosmos-patterned schoolbus on a Kafka-circus tour over the roads of the awakening nation — And the wakening began, some say, with the first saxophone cry of the new mode of black music which shook the walls of white city mind when Charles Parker lifted his birdflightnoted horn & announced a new rhythm of thinking, and extended breathing of the body in music and speech, a new consciousness. For as Plato had said, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.”

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The new consciousness born in these States can be traced back through old gnostic texts, visions, artists & shamans; it is the consciousness of our ground nature suppressed & desecrated. It was always the secret tale of the tribe in America, this great scandal of the closing of the doors of perception of the Naked Human Form Divine. It began with the white murder of Indian inhabitants of the ground, the theft and later usurious exploitation of their land, it continued with an assault on all races and species of Mother Nature herself and concludes today with total disruption of the ecology of the entire planet. No wonder black slaves kept for non-human use into this century in tear-gassed ghettos of megalopolis were the first Aliens to sound the horn of Change, first Strangers to Call the Great Call through Basilides’ many Heavens. Amazing synchronism again, that Mr. Frank Takes Gun, Native American Church amerindian Peyote Chief, invited the brilliantly talkative silver-haired psychiatrist who directed a Saskatchewan mental hospital in the early ’40s to participate in a Peyote ritual, and that the same Dr. Humphrey Osmond having recognized a wonder of consciousness thus experienced passed on the catalyst in Mescaline synthetic form to Aldous Huxley; and that Huxley’s 1945 essay on the chemical opening of the Doors of Perception found its way to the tables of Bickford’s Cafeteria Times Square New York & the couches of Reed College and Berkeley, where artist persons, having heard the Great Call of the Negroes, already initiated themselves en masse to subtle gradations of their own consciousness experienced while smoking the same Afric hemp smoked by Charles Parker Thelonius Monk & Dizzy Gillespie.

Dr. Timothy Leary takes up his part of the tale of the tribe in a Mexican hut and brings his discovery to Harvard harmoniously — and there begins the political battle, black and white magic become public visible for a generation. Dr. Leary is a hero of American consciousness. He began as a sophisticated academician, he encountered discoveries in his field which confounded him and his own technology, he pursued his studies where attention commanded, he arrived beyond the boundaries of public knowledge. One might hesitate to say, like Socrates, like Galileo? — poor Dr. Leary, poor Earth! Yet here we are in Science Fiction History, in the age of Hydrogen Bomb Apocalypse, the very Kali Yuga wherein man’s stupidity so overwhelms the planet that ecological catastrophe begins to rehearse old tribe-tales of Karmaic retribution, Fire & Flood & Armageddon impending.

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It would be natural (in fact deja vu) that the very technology stereotyping our consciousness & desensitizing our perceptions should throw up its own antidote, an antidote synthetic such as LSD synchronous with mythic tribal Soma & Peyote. Given such historic Comedy, who could emerge from Harvard technology but one and only Dr. Leary, a respectable human being, a worldly man faced with the task of a Messiah. Inevitable! Not merely because the whole field of mental psychology as a “science” had arrived at biochemistry anyway. It was inevitable because the whole professional civilized world, like Dr. Leary, was already faced with Messianic task of accelerated evolution (i.e. psychosocial Revolution) including an alteration of human consciousness leading to the immediate mutation of social & economic forms. This staggering realization, psychedelic, i.e., consciousness expanding & mind-manifesting in itself, without the use of chemical catalysts, is now forced on all of us by images of our own unconscious rising from the streets of Chicago, where teargas was dumped on Christ’s very Cross in Lincoln Park AD 1968. The drains are backing up in the cities, smog noise and physiologic poison in food turn us to insect acts, overpopulation crazes the planet, our lakes corrupt, old riverways become dank fens, tanks enter Prague and Chicago streets simultaneous, Police State arrives in every major city, starvation wastes African provinces, Chinese genocide in Vietnam, Alarm! Alarm! howls deep as any Biblic prophecy.

Ourselves caught in the giant machine are conditioned to its terms, only holy vision or technological catastrophe or revolution break “the mind forg’d manacles.” Given one by-product of the technology that might, as it were by feed-back, correct the berserk machine and liberate the invertor’s mind from captivity by hypnotic robots, Dr. Leary had in LSD an invaluable civilized elixir. For, as Dr. Jiri Roubichek observed early in Prague (“Artificial Psychosis,” 1958), “LSD inhibits conditioned reflexes.” And this single phrase, for rational men, might be the key to the whole gnostic mystery of LSD and Dr. Leary’s role as unique, alas solitary, courageous, humane & frank Democratic Boddhisatva-teacher of the uses of LSD in America. For he took on himself the noble task of announcing the evidence of his senses despite the scary contumely of fellow academicians, the dispraising timorous irony of scientific “professionals,” the stupidity meanness self-serving cowardice and hollow vanity of bureaucratic personnel from Harvard Yard to Mexico City to Washington, from the ignorant Sheriff’s office in Dutchess County NY to the inner greedy sanctums of the US Treasury Department in D. C., our whole “establishment” of civilization that defends us from knowledge of our own unconscious by means of policeman’s clubs, and would resist the liberation of our minds and bodies by any brutish means available including teargas, napalm & the Hydrogen Bomb.

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Dr. Leary conducted himself fairly & equitably, given the extremity of his knowledge; it took an innocent courage to explore his own unconditioned consciousness, to take LSD and other chemicals often enough to be well balanced in praxis as well as explanation, and to attempt to wed the enormity of his experience to Reason. An heroic attempt to communicate clearly and openly through civilized technologic media to his fellow citizens, despite centuries of identity brainwash accelerated now to mass paranoia and Cold War Apocalypse, required Dr. Leary the proverbial wisdom of serpent & harmlessness of dove.

Timothy Leary tells the tale of his tribe in book aptly titled “The Politics of Ecstasy,” & events enlarged since he wrote his book and chose its title charge the author’s handiwork with prophetic enormity. The battle of generations that erupted this year simultaneously in Prague, Chicago, Mexico City, Paris, New York (and Moscow underground) — everywhere the State’s electronic consciousness is interlinked — transcends antique battles of Cold War and Race. We witness planetary confrontation wherein controlling Elders trapped in a suicidal mechanical consciousness deploy their destructive technology against their own children in the streets of their own cities. ‘Tis Blake’s Urizen tormenting tender Los in Eternity! New generations have risen spontaneously with new consciousness and a mutant politics of flower power that is rooted in the ground of human consciousness itself: an acceptance of human identity as one with living nature on a living planet where all creatures are living God. The public philosophies and technologies of all civilized Governments at present are are at war with this God, and the planet itself is within decades of destruction. No wonder there is sudden appearance of Adamic hair. Eve walks naked in the streets; ancient body rhythm beat out thru the airwaves in eclectic mantric Rock from Bratislava to San Francisco, & youths ingest shamanic elixirs to recover consciousness of planetary Archetypes. Hare Krishna!

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One politic synchronism that concerns this text should be gossiped forth contextual. Timothy Leary quit public life to write a book in Mexico some years ago, but he was searched by Agents of Government as he went to cross borders, arrested for possession of some herb, and thus forced to interrupt his writing, return to public action, and defend his person from attack by the State. So he traveled to academies and lectured to the young, & thus he paid large legal fees required by the State & thus maintained an Ashram of fellow seekers well known in Millbrook. Agents of Government raided and repeatedly abused the utopia, whereupon Dr. Leary was obliged to be Dr. Leary and lecture more to raise money for his family of imprisoned friends. Agents of Government concluded this phase of prosecution with a piece of Socratic irony so blatantly echoing an old Greek injustice that the vulgar rhetoric of a Tyrannous State would need only be quoted to be recognized, were it not for the fact that these States are by now so plagued with Tyrannously inspired chaos and public communication so flooded with images of State Atrocity from the alleys of Saigon to the parks of Chicago that official public conscience here now, as memorably in Russia and Germany, is shocked, dumbed & amnesiac. I quote from the Spring 1968 State Document in any case for the delectation of gnostic Cognoscenti, that is to say myriads of the present young:

“To Hon. Edw. W. Wadsworth
Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Fifth Circuit
Room 408 — 400 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA. 70130
“Re: No 23570
Timothy Leary vs United States of America

“… We are applying for an order from the District Court requiring the Defendant to surrender to the United States Marshal…

“The appellant continues his publicized activities involving the advocacy of the use of psychedelic drugs by students and others of immature judgment and tender years and is regarded as a menace to the community so long as he is at large …

Very truly yours,
Morton L. Sussman,
United States Attorney.

By: James R. Gough,
Asst. U.S. ATTY.
Chief, Appeals Research Division”

[related_posts post_id_1=”717604” /]

Thus requesting revocation of Dr. Leary’s bail’d liberty while his political-religious defense for possession of an herb approached Supreme Court, Agents of Government checked further conversation with the young. The Millbrook Ashram having been simultaneously dispersed by Agents of Government his immediate financial responsibilities lightened, Timothy Leary retired back home to Berkeley with his mate and completed his description of “the Politics of Ecstasy.” ❖

1968 Village Voice article by Allen Ginsberg on Timothy Leary's Politics of Ecstasy

1968 Village Voice article by Allen Ginsberg on Timothy Leary's Politics of Ecstasy

1968 Village Voice article by Allen Ginsberg on Timothy Leary's Politics of Ecstasy

Categories
BOOKS ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Huncke the Junkie: Godfather to Naked Lunch

My phone rang on a hot morning in July a year ago and it as Allen Ginsberg.

“Do you know Herbert Huncke?” Ginsberg asked. “Have you ever met Huncke?” I said that I hadn’t.

“He’s the oldest living junkie in New York,” Ginsberg said, “and an old sidekick of Burroughs and Kerouac. He turned Burroughs on to junk and he’s waiting in line at Manhattan General to get in so he can cut down on his habit. He’s been waiting for four days and he thinks he can get in in about 20 minutes, and he needs his suitcase which is in his hotel room, so can you go up to the hospital and get his key, and go to the hotel and get his suitcase and take it to him? He’s wearing a white sweater. Hurry!”

I threw on some clothes and rushed to the subway, and in maybe 19 minutes was running down 21st Street to the back door of Manhattan General where the junkies wait in line to save their lives. Huncke met me in the middle of the block. His white cardigan sweater was unmistakable, but so was his face, which was fragile testimony to 30 years on heroin.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721949″ /]

Huncke had decided to save Manhattan General for another day, but he insisted on showing me the junkie’s lobby. The floor behind the door was strewn with cigarette butts, and the air was a dense fog. They leaned against the wall — men, women, white, Puerto Rican, black — and sat on the benches. All the openings, the sign-in windows and such, were caged. It was as hard to get in as it was to get out.

And then as we walked over to Ginsberg’s, Huncke began to rap. Huncke raps beautifully, the sound of his magnificent voice — all that seems intact in his devastated body — as tantalizing as the content. He has so much to rap about, the days with Burroughs, the trials and woes of Ginsberg, the gilded gossip about the beats a decade ago and last week. It is all that he has, his memories and a talent for recalling them. It is not quite enough, but he gets by.

When he arrived, Ginsberg took me aside. “Whatever you do,” he said sternly, “don’t give him money! I’m not kidding. Be careful. He’s very persuasive.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”721631″ /]

And then he took Huncke aside, and asked him to spare me his touch. “He’s just a kid,” he said, “and he doesn’t have very much money.” And then Huncke hit Ginsberg for ten bucks.

Huncke is a master of the touch. It’s his livelihood, and as I walked with him back to the West Side I braced myself to follow Ginsberg’s orders and resist the inevitable climax of the conversation. It never came. Huncke spared me the first time — it would be the last — waved good-bye, and promised to stop by and visit.

And he did stop by, roughly once a week at a punctual nine o’clock in the morning, at an old loft I had on Prince Street that summer. I would try to wake up and make some coffee and we would sit and talk for three hours or so, the same glorious rap, and then he would hit me for $5 or so, always, he said, for a hotel or some other non-narcotic necessity of life. And I would give it to him, because he had earned it.

Toward the end of summer he passed a bad check on me and disappeared. I was sad that he never came back, and, in lieu of an autograph, pasted the check, which he had endorsed in various styles of script, on the title page of his “Journals,” a rambling collection of recollections that had been published by the Poet’s Press. A little while later I heard he was in jail.

[related_posts post_id_1=”722241″ /]

After he had finished six months in jail, he drove to San Francisco with a friend. I suspected that he was intrigued by the talk about a “Love Community” in Haight-Ashbury and the Diggers’ free money.

He liked the city, but was disappointed by the people, and a few weeks ago he was back in New York, but he didn’t get much of a homecoming. Ginsberg was in Italy and Panna Grady, a long-time patron, was in London and Peter Orlovsky was in a surly mood. He had spent the money Ginsberg had left to get him to London, and again, the line at Manhattan General proved to be too long for his patience. He stooped to selling salt pills as Owsley acid. And all the people he supposedly burned were rumored to be waiting for his upcoming reading at St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie. It seemed that, for once, the audience would be taking the collection. But, deft as ever, Huncke survived the reading and went off to rap with Neal Cassady.

The other day he came by to visit again, and we sat in a bar on Seventh Avenue and talked. Huncke had a coke — he is repulsed by liquor — and I asked him to recall again how he came to meet William Burroughs.

[related_posts post_id_1=”727406″ /]

“I met Bill in 1944,” he said. “I had just come back from a trip to South America. Bill had met a friend of mine from Cleveland, a guy like something from a Humphrey Bogart movie, with padded shoulders, a felt hat and a flashy tie. He had a job as a soda jerk around Columbia. I think his intention was to case the neighborhood. And Burroughs approached him and asked if he could get rid of a sawed-off shotgun. Burroughs always had a sort of interest in the underworld. So this friend brought Burroughs down to my apartment, with the gun and several gross of morphine Syrettes. When I first saw Burroughs I thought he was a Treasury agent.

“He thought he’d like to try the morphine just once. We turned him on. He was a natural. The next thing we knew he joined forces with us.”

Burroughs was then at Columbia where he had, Huncke recalled, “a coterie which included Kerouac and Allen, who idolized him, and myself. I was sort of introduced as an oddity that should be observed.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724430” /]

“At this same time, the Kinsey report was taking shape. I had met Dr. Kinsey in Times Square, and I introduced him to Allen and others. We used to get together in the Angler Bar, which was off 42nd Street. We’d sit there and talk and eat and drink. Bill was interested in karate. One of the most interesting things I ever witnessed was Bill trying to give a knockout blow with three fingers to break up a fight. He had gathered his coat around him elegantly, with all the dignity and reserved demeanor he had, and he was trying to reach over the heads in the brawl to hit the guy.”

In 1947, Huncke and Burroughs went to Texas. “It was a beautiful year,” Huncke said. “Just Bill, myself, his wife, and young Bill was born in July. We lived in a little weatherbeaten cabin on the edge of the bayou, and we raised a crop of pot. We were going to try to raise oriental poppies in a hothouse.

“Bill had his pistols and did target practice. He used to stand out there and draw with his pistols strapped to his side and shoot at the barn. Then Neal Cassady and Allen drove down from San Francisco. Neal and Bill and I drove back to New York in a jeep with the pot, and Allen took the train.

[related_posts post_id_1=”721386” /]

“I didn’t see too much of Burroughs after that. Then Bill went to Tangiers, and I just hung around, hooked all the time, using junk, junk, junk. I’ve been using junk for more than 30 years. I can’t write without it. I can’t live without it.”

He can’t live without it. Herbert Huncke, apostle of junk, immortalized in more than one Kerouac novel, eulogized in Ginsberg’s ravings, godfather to “Naked Lunch.” As he fumbled for a match in the bar on Seventh Avenue, I could see that it was time for him to go again in search of that small bag that holds his bones together.

I gave him the money to buy it, and I hoped that he would find it. ❖

1967 Village Voice article by Don McNeill about the writer and New York Times denizen Huncke the Junkie

1967 Village Voice article by Don McNeill about the writer and New York Times denizen Huncke the Junkie

Categories
FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Expectation of Rising Revolutions

Report From Chicago

CHICAGO — In the gym of a seminary on the North Side, an ex-marine is showing a Baltimore Weatherman how to ram a heavy pole into a cop’s gut. There’s a Vietcong flag on the pole. The floor is littered with helmets, fatigue jackets, gas masks, goggles, canteens, gauze, and gloves. Most of the Weathermen are sitting tensely on the floor. A few practice karate kicks. No one enters the building without emptying pockets and being frisked.

At another church, only a few blocks away, the RYM II (Revolutionary Youth Movement) coalition of SDS is busy assembling its members as they trickle in from out of state, regis­tering bail contacts on neat index cards, and frisking everyone at the door. Groups are organizing to leaflet the area’s black and brown communities. Someone announces an hour when tetanus shots will be given. Someone else wants to know how many Weathermen have arrived in Chicago. The mood is more relaxed, the church friendlier.

Chicago itself is uneasy. The heated clashes between blacks and whites in the construction industry have just cooled. The statue of a policeman in Haymarket Square was blown apart Monday. Tilden High, on the South Side, is on the brink of racial war. Policemen have shot one Puerto Rican, and two days later, will kill his brother, starting a major gun battle in which eight cops will be shot. The minister of the church housing the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican gang turned political, has just been killed. The Panther office has been invaded, several Panthers arrested, one ending up in critical condition in the hospital. The SDS National Office has been raided, Weathermen jailed and beaten, several severely. And the SDS National Action is about to begin three days in Chicago.

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Wednesday night. The gathering is in Lincoln Park, scene of last year’s convention violence. Several hundred pick their way through the dark toward the giant bonfire in the park’s center. The light off a Weatherman’s helmet, the occasional flash from a camera, the static buzz from newsmen’s walkie talkies. More bodies begin to fill the gloom. There are no uniformed cops in the park. A large banner pictures a coiled snake with the inscription “Don’t Tread On Me,” symbol of Rising Up Angry, the new paper of a white revolutionary gang in Chicago. A tall figure in burlap robes with a staff and a yoke is going through an Old Testament-cum-revolution rap to cries of “Off the Prophet!” (The next day, 50 of the same will line the streets of the Loop, Chicago’s downtown, providing cute six o’clock news copy, and then disappear as mysteriously as they arrived.)

The rally starts at eight o’clock. There are intermittent speeches and chants. By ten o’clock the crowd has grown to four or five hundred. Tom Hayden appears out of the dark and takes the bullhorn. “It’s a lie that we oppose this Weatherman demonstration. It’s good to see people coming back to Chicago, back to Lincoln Park. We welcome any intensification of the struggle.” While about half of the Conspiracy Eight endorse the Weathermen, there is only tepid official sanction, due to Panther opposition. Jeff Jones, inter-organizational secretary of SDS, announces himself as Mario Delgado — pseudonym of the Weather Bureau — to knowing tit­ters. As he speaks, there is a shift in the crowd, and the helmets begin lining up. There has been no announcement of a march, but within minutes the Weather­men are pouring out of the park, heading south toward Chicago’s plush Gold Coast and, hopefully, the Drake Hotel, residence of Judge Julius J. Hoffman. Most of the crowd trails along behind as the phalanx of 300 helmeted Weathermen begins running toward the string of luxury high-risers. Stones and bricks are picked up at construction sites along the way. Already some bottles are being dropped from windows. The crowd quickens. Now plate glass windows are, being smashed by rocks. Heavy poles shatter car windows and windshields. As the squad cars scream up and police race to head off the Weathermen, the mob suddenly swings east toward Lake Shore Drive. There are clouds of tear gas and scattered gunshots. The Weathermen have split in two. Those by Lake Shore Drive are met by car after car packed with cops, many unmarked. Shattered glass fills the street. In front of 1212 Lake Shore Drive, a pile of injured Weathermen is lying face down in the dirt with groups of cops glaring over them. One cop is holding up a piece of concrete, one foot on the back of his victim. “The motherfucker tried to hit me with this!” A team or five medics from the Medical Commission for Human Rights tries to get through to the wounded, but is charged by two policemen with clubs and quickly retreats. (Weathermen announced that unless MCHR carried rocks in their bags, they didn’t want help. Another medic, his face painted in gaudy dayglo, is soon hustled off into a van for carrying boric acid.

Fifty-eight are eventually busted. Several Weathermen are gunshot victims, one is in critical condition with a bullet in the neck. Some 30 store windows are smashed — banks, restaurants, drug stores, shops. No one reaches through the splintered glass to loot. The area is inundated with police. A Rolls Royce sits in front of one of the plusher high-risers, ringed by a crowd of incredulous onlookers. Three of its windows are smashed. A block away, a scarlet Lamborghini goes untouched. Several injured cops are hustled into cars. The com­ments of bystanders are not friendly: “I’m getting out my goddamn rifle.” “They shouldn’t put them in jail; they should be killed.” “They ought to shoot every one of the bastards!” “It’s commie backed.”

The next day Mayor Daley will call up 2500 National Guardsmen.

[related_posts post_id_1=”724399″ /]

Thursday. The Weathermen’s Women Militia is scheduled to “tear apart” a major induction center in downtown Chicago. The women assemble in Grant Park below the Logan statue, across from last year’s site of the Battle of Michigan Avenue. There are a cluster of 50 or 60 women, army-dressed, helmeted, many with clubs. Ringed by newsmen and photographers, they sing and chant “We love our Uncle Ho Chi Minh, deep down in our hearts. We love our chairman Mao Tse Tung, deep down in our hearts …” And cry out “Oink, Oink. Bang, bang! Dead pig!”

The leadership of the group is late in arriving. When it does, the number of newsmen has swelled and cars of cops line Michigan Ave­nue. Her face shielded by raised hands, Bernardine Dohrn speaks from the center of the cluster: “For the first time in history women are getting themselves together. We’re not picketing in front of bra factor­ies. A few buckshot wounds mean we’re doing the right thing. This is not a self-indulgent bullshit women’s movement. We refuse to be good Germans. We live behind enemy lines.”

After a quick huddle, the group opens up, lines up, and heads briskly down along the length of the park chanting “the only direction is insurrection; the only solution is revolution.” Police race to cut them off at the road. When the women reach the sidewalk, there is a double row of 20 cops. The front women try to break through, are stopped, wrestled to the ground, and thrown into nearby police vans, yelling “Power to the People!” One girl, her face squashed into the concrete by a cop’s foot, is screaming “Off the Pig!” The women regroup, but more police have arrived now, and set up a surrounding horseshoe of cops, keeping newsmen out. The women are outnumbered, out­maneuvered, and outmuscled. As they lose their momentum, several begin weeping. The cop in charge is ordering the women to drop their gloves and clubs and take off their helmets. If they don’t they’ll all be arrested. Eventually the women agree, and the police escort the women three blocks to the subway where they are ushered underground, shaken and torn by the outcome of their action.

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

An hour later, the RYM II forces, making their first open appearance, are rallying at the Federal Building where the Conspiracy Trial is going on. RYM II is supported by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords and is attracting a comfortable coalition of movement groups. There is none of the tension that the Weathermen elicit. It is lunch hour, Abbie Hoffman is down from the 23rd floor, spotting cameras, greeting friends, running his monologue. “Hey, Dick Tracy, did you get the money we sent you? … Let’s go see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid … We wanted to support the Weatherman action but there’s the Panther thing … I can’t go tomorrow — I’m Jewish and I gotta go to church … ”

An army of newsmen and camera crews is on a rooftop across the street. Squads of cops surround the skyscraper tower. The building itself is impossible to get into — all four entrances are heavily guarded by federal marshals. Even the press is having a hard time getting into the courtroom, and defense attorney William Kunstler has just filed a motion charging that legitimate newsmen are being excluded in favor of certain friends of the judge. (The New York Times had just run a spread on society women turning up at the trial.)

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A Young Lord from New York addresses the milling crowd of 500. “Fascism is here. Look at the life and property the pigs protect. It ain’t my property and it ain’t my life. In Puerto Rico, students just blew up the ROTC building.” Wild cheers. “But we’re talking about revolutionary love. Revolutionary love says you gotta pick up the gun. We’re not racists or hate mongers or war mongers. But revolution is not a dinner party. We’re fighting for all of you in those glass offices.” Speeches by Mike Klonsky, RYM II coordinator, and Carl David­son, Guardian columnist. And then Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party: “We support RYM II only. We oppose the anarchistic, adventur­istic, chauvinistic, individualistic, masochistic, and Custeristic Weathermen. We don’t dig con­frontations that lead people into struggles they’re not ready for. We want government by the people, for the people, and of the people. Fuck this shit of government by the pigs for the pigs, and of the pigs. This town’s hungry, and we need a barbecue.”

The Weathermen meanwhile have reshuffled their schedule — it had been clearly laid out on two sides of a detailed information poster.

They have abandoned the “Wargasm” (a revolutionary youth culture celebration), have postponed their high school actions, and are now filtering into the Federal Plaza for what is rumored to be a rally to co-opt RYM II support. But security quickly alerts Hampton who is speaking. The rally is abruptly ended, and everyone is urged to show up at the International Harvester plant in an hour for a massive action in support of the workers. About 150 Weathermen are now left alone in the plaza under heavy police scrutiny. They huddle together for a while and then, slipping helmets under coats, move out as unobstrusively as possible. But as has been happening since Wednesday, several are picked off and busted, identified as part of the action the night before, by Chicago’s Red Squad (The “subversive” division of police intelligence).

The RYM II action at Harvester is an orderly, sedate rally of about 40, sandwiched between the massive Cook Country courthouse and jail and the sprawling Harvester plant. About 60 brown-shirted deputies line the steps of the courthouse and more than 100 blue-helmeted cops guard the fences and entrance of Harvest. There is the familiar spectrum of movement groups, hawking politics and papers, passing around hats for bail money. The movement’s banner­-maker YAWF (Youth Against War and Fascism), provides some satin splashes of color, a gaudy orange. The sound equipment has arrived and is working perfectly. There is the repeated invective against Weatherman, this time from an organizer within the plant: “They’re a bunch of fool-ass punks running around downtown breaking windows. We shut this plant down today without firing a single shot and cost the company a quarter of a million dollars.” (It was announced that enough workers had walked out of key production departments to shut down the plant for the day.) More workers rose and told of inhuman working condi­tions, an uptight company and working men sold out by the UAW.

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The Harvester Plant is going to be torn down and moved to the suburbs where it will be inaccessible to the many black and Puerto Ricans now working in the factory. Thirty-five hundred jobs will be lost. It is rumored that a jail will replace the plant. “So the worker’s got no job, he’s standing around, he’s busted, and he ends up living — in jail — where he used to work!” The rally ends with a singling of “We Shall Overcome” and “Solidarity Forever” “When we say the ‘union,’ we mean the union of working men, not the UAW.”

Thursday night. The Weathermen mysteriously call a 10:30 news conference at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel. Sensing a hot late news item, more than 60 newsmen push through the convention crowds and pile in the narrow Club Room amidst the usual tangle and clutter of mikes, cables, plugs, lights, tripods, meters, tape decks, and cameras. There is the familiar news batter, traded with light readings, juvenile obscenities (“Stop goosing my ass!”), clowning with a helmet and gas mask, and what passes for fourth estate humor: “Call me a racist pig, Charlie.” “SD — what?,” “I wonder where our little friends are.” “Honky news collective over here.” and “Let’s get this show the road so I can eat dinner.”

Four Weathermen arrive, announce they will make a brief statement, and answer a couple of short questions. Half the newsmen start to walk out. Order is restored, and with two men standing behind them, the women give their names. One was shotgunned in the leg the night before and announces that a brother has just been shot. “Who?” click the questions, but she won’t elaborate for security reasons. Several cameras turn off and mikes are pulled out. There is a “no comment” on the Black Panther attack, and a short rap about Third World struggles from the other girl: “White people have lived off the labor of black and brown people for centuries. This is theft, and we are giving up the fruits and privileges of that labor.” She displays an NLF ring, recites “Determined to fight, determined to win” in Vietnamese, raises her fist along with the others, then the four quickly walk out past the angry and astonished newsmen

Friday. The Weatherman high school action is now cancelled. Too many people have been identified and arrested, high schools are reportedly under heavy police guard, and a long Weatherman meeting Thursday night began to challenge some of the tactics employed so far. Primarily, it is clear that not as many Weathermen have come to Chicago as expected (ditto for RYM II, who had predicted “more than 5000″), and that what was planned as demonstration actions are turning into highly vulnerable cadre actions. The Wednesday night attack has exposed the Weathermen to continued identification and arrest.

[related_posts post_id_1=”725117” /]

The RYM II action for Friday is at Cook County Hospital where organizers have charged medical genocide, forced sterilization of blacks, and the use of the hospital by doctors as a cheap educational steppingstone into suburban practice. “We are sick and tired of medical moonshots, like heart transplants,” says one doctor at the rally. “We want health care that serves the people.” A Black Panther announces the opening of a free health clinic, and there is an elaborate skit depicting the “systematization” under Pig Daley of a sick welfare woman with 25 children, followed by some “radical surgery” at the Panther clinic. Awaking from the operation, the woman slowly sits up on the table. “How do you feel?” asks the Panther doctor. A huge grin spreads over her face as she slowly intones, “Ho … Ho … Ho Chi Minh!”

Again, RYM II draws about 500 people, a noisy buzzing police helicopter, hundreds of police around the street and hospital entrances, and no trouble. Some doctors join the rally, a few heckle, and many line the streets or hang out of hospital and residence windows. Organizing at Cook County has been strongest in the non-skilled job areas.

After the rally, RYM II calls a press conference at their move­ment center, a church on the North Side (in fact, all SDS groups spent the three days operating out of churches). The purpose, explains Klonsky, is to get a little press coverage of RYM’s work which is being ob­scured by a “handful of people running crazy in the streets.” Klonsky tries to keep together the idea of SDS as mass organization with some internal struggles, and repeatedly denounces the growing characterization of RYM II as non-violent and pacifist. A Young Lord adds another Weath­erman criticism: “Whoever heard of people breaking windows in a store and not taking anything?”

While RYM II meets openly and continues planning for the finale march and rally Saturday, the Weathermen are on the run. They have been temporarily thrown out of Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston when 150 Weathermen turn up instead of the expected 30. They are tossed out of another church when the pastor finds them in the basement beating a cop who has infiltrated the center. And as the Chicago rains pour down Friday night, flooding streets and cellars, there is frantic racing from center to center, from church to church, to head off an expected bust. It eventually comes at two o’clock in the morning at an Evanston church when 100 police break in on the Weathermen (mostly from New York) and arrest 43. Four warrants have been issued; two of those named are found in the church, the rest are arrested on charges of mob action and inciting to riot stemming out of Wednesday’s clash.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726381″ /]

Saturday. The final day of the national action. Everyone is both exhausted and primed for the final offensive. Both RYM II and Weatherman have marches and demonstrations scheduled. Both reportedly have parade permits. RYM II goes through black and brown communities, attracting several thousand marchers and a heavy police escort. The windows are filled with clenched fists. It ends with a somewhat listless, overlong rally in Humboldt Park demanding independence for Puerto Rico and withdrawal from Vietnam. Those in RYM II feel that the support has been impressive along the way.

The Weatherman action is uncertain. Nobody knows how many are left, how many are out of jail, or how many are in hospitals. Weathermen have been having trouble communicating, finding safe refuges and untapped phones. Those walking the streets have resorted to jackets and ties and straight dresses. In Chicago there is an uneasy sense that every third person is a cop. The march is slated to start from Haymarket Square where the statue’s pedestal reads “In the name of the State of Illinois, I command peace.”

As Weathermen begin to gather at the statue, plainclothesman — most disguised as longshoremen heavies — wade through the newsmen and pull out clubs. They haul off four Weathermen, among them Mark Rudd, who is making a rare public appearance. Despite the quick bust, the Weathermen group grows. Bands of 10 and 20 march into the square chanting “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh!” and join the larger group. There are speeches, Marxist-Leninist cries, raised fists, chanting, and then the Weathermen suddenly swing into the street. The cop escort is especially heavy, in front, in back, and along the line of march that sweeps through the Loop and the financial district. National Guardsmen are poised at all nearby armories. Two baby-blue sanitation sweepers swing menacingly behind the marchers, their brushes twirling, but are unable to keep up with the pace of the Weathermen. Unlike Wednesday night, there are few stragglers or observers. Newsmen are keeping to the sidewalk.

[related_posts post_id_1=”717712″ /]

Halfway down the route, the march suddenly breaks east through policelines. Bricks, clubs, and pipes are pulled out. Windows are smashed and chaos erupts as the column disintegrates into wild skirmishes with the police. Cops pour into the streets, grabbing everyone they can, pinning them to the ground or against cars until vans race up to cart off the arrested and injured. Several policemen appear badly beaten, the city’s corporation counsel lies motionless on the street, paralyzed from the neck down. Clumps of Weathermen dot the street and sidewalk with cops standing over them. The violence this time is brief. No guns are drawn. One hundred and three Weathermen are arrested.

It is difficult to assess the impact of the action. RYM II has not made much of a splash. Their numbers are not impressive for a much-publicized national action, despite grass-roots organizing with the Panthers and the Young Lords. Among those caught between RYM II and Weatherman, there is criticism of RYM’s political rhetoric, of a non-revolutionary appeal to workers, and of rather staid, uninspired actions and rallies. RYM has devoted a lot of energy to disassociating itself from Weatherman violence and confrontation and finds itself labeled as non-violent and pacifist. Suddenly, the Panthers and SDS (RYM) are the good guys, the friendly revolutionaries. They have been temporarily robbed of their bizazz, upstaged. On the other hand, they have incurred no liabilities, have not been busted, and have undoubtedly built up a stronger base of support than they had before the action.

With Weatherman, of course, the reverse is true. Close to 300 have been busted, some several times. Sympathies are low and bail money scarce. All are identified, labeled, photographed, catalogued. They have captured the headlines of Chicago papers for three days. They have demonstrated a street gang force that can march into the heart of Chicago and attack the police. They have provoked the calling out of 2500 National Guardsmen. They emanate an energy far in excess of their numbers. They aim to polarize and clearly succeed. At the moment, of course, returns are only in from the establishment poll, where there is extravagant hostility to the “roughneck fanatics.” At least in Chicago, there is a new sense of middle-class communion with the police. Police are praised and clucked over. Daniel J. Walker, architect of the report condemning the “police brutality” at the Democratic Convention, issues a statement applauding their behavior. Mayor Daley is smiling comfortably; his troops were restrained — at least in the publicity of the streets — and behaved as instructed. And even within the movement, there is an abundance of open hostility and despair at Weatherman politics and strategies.

Weatherman actions, however, are designed to turn on high school youths, white street gangs, working class kids. But it is unclear to what extent they have succeeded. Many Weathermen believe they are accomplishing just that. Many believe the Chicago action was a success. They have demonstrated the seriousness of their intention to physically smash the state.

[related_posts post_id_1=”726362″ /]

There is much internal criticism of tactics, however. The women’s action was clearly a bust. The high school actions were aborted. And there is a growing feeling that Weathermen cannot expose themselves as publicly as they did in Chicago, that the only alter­native now is to go underground.

The key to much of Weatherman politics appears in their conception of Third World struggles and the ideal of a world in revolution. They are out less to create a revolutionary movement in this country than to identify all “behind the line” white revolutionaries with anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world. It is this perspective that encourages a certain insularity from more “people-serving” organizing. There is a religious intensity to the Weatherman turn-on, a de­sperate exorcism of all mid­dle-class hangups and privilege, and a lunging attempt to magically raise the level of revolutionary consciousness through exemplary actions.

The impact of the Weathermen in Chicago is still uncertain. All returns are not yet in. ❖

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial