Subject: Oldies (Was For Louis Proyect)
To which Doug writes:
[This bounced, because as the Panix mailer put it, "This may be hard to believe, but there was no "From:" field in this message I just received. I'm not gonna send it out, but you can...[.]" Chuck, check your <From:> field!]
So, this is what happens when I write a draft and then leave it in the pending queue. Opps. Out the frigg'n door. But I wrote a better intro paragraph later on last night, off line and decided not to send any of it. Like why fill up a list already jammed with mail? But now that it's out, I have to answer for it. Here is a later intro for anyone's amusement:
Fellow geezers, will we find solidarity in the red diaper day room at Agnes State Hospital after tube feeding and wheel chair repair?
(Agnes is a huge complex in SF where they put you when you get too far gone. Oh, and yeah, you only get vanilla flavor in the tube--the State of California and United States Government don't pay for no fancy chocolate or strawberry--get used to it. And, then, too, red bands on diapers, sheets, and disposables indicate extreme infection hazard--quarantine protocols).
I know we are supposed to forget, but what are the ancients to do in their incontinent dotage while sucking vanilla and watching 'Leave It to Beaver' reruns? No you don't get to change the channel--its in a screened cage hanging from the ceiling. So, try to forgive my climb into the way back machine. Try to remember I didn't get a chance to say shit to the leadership back then. This thread between Ken Lawrence and Louis Proyect sounds mighty familiar.
Those names, particularly Mike Harrington--but I can't remember a thing he said or what he looked like--just the name. Wasn't he a law student at Boalt? Maybe he was denied admission--somebody was, but I can't remember who. And, there are other names like Mike Tiger, Terry Hallinan, Frank Warnike, Bettina Abtecker, Mario Salvio and at least a dozen others (spelling is suspect). Some still alive and active and others gone into oblivion.
So, that was the revision. But as I was writing this and laughing, I though about the 'deeper' issue. The YPSL's (Young People's Socialist League) were die hard commies. We had been over and over this free speech issue, ad nausium. They thought it was bullshit, we thought is was the very first order of the day. University students not allowed to speak on their own dammed campus? The administration still pulls the plug at one o'clock--if you want more time, then you bring your own sound and risk a confrontation--unregistered groups are still banned and there are still speaker lists, permits, and administration approval. These other bullshit items were abandoned for awhile because there was no point--demonstrations, cops, and confrontations became more or less continuous. The FBI and local cops set up permeant offices in the Sproul basement 'command center' and the surveillance photographers took photos from the second floor of the ASUC building on the opposite side of the plaza--these were used to identify students and kick them out of school for violations of the aforesaid regulations on use of campus facilities, blah, blah, blah. Kick them straight out to Travis and off to Vietnam.
While musing on this I went back over Ken's post and then Charles Brown's exchange on hate speech and thought about some of the directions that Ken L had taken. We are in the same argument from thirty-five years ago. So, I wrote out a different last section to the post:
"Theoretical positions on the correct tactics to defeat Capitalism now or whether a proletariat lead revolution was more important than freedom of speech seemed pretty tired... I mean, fine, let's do both--you know revolt and talk at the same time, okay guys? You want proletariat, no problem, I'll wear a work shirt--the leadership was never happy with us masses."
But this silly issue was at the center of Tien au men(?) square. It goes to the heart of the model for revolution lead from above with disciplined silence in the rank and file below. It perpetuates class division, defeats solidarity, and renders the masses skilless, alienated, and helpless--just great. Exactly the same as capitalism.
How does speech cure all this? Speech is the means to self-determination, the means to solidarity, and the foundation of political skill, so by exercising these a mass gets out of silence, alienation and helpless. So, the point isn't some bourgeoise sop to an abstract ideal for democracy. The point is power to the people--as the Panthers used to say.
At a more philosophical level, and returning to a different thread between me and Charles Brown on the nature of racism. If racism is understood as a threat to existence, and, a prohibition on racist speech is restricted to this understanding of what racism is, then I agree. Ban it, with the understanding that the right to exist is prior to or co-equal to speech. When I was going over this, I thought of Siquerios--the Mexican Muralist from the Thirties. The center of one of his murals depicts a nude baby screaming in the middle of a ruined landscape of extreme poverty.
That you exist is first, but the first thing you do is scream about it! Being and consciousness, their mirror as existence and speech co-exist in the same breath.