The free speech movement and the negro revolution

Submitted by libcom on July 27, 2005

Savio, Mario; Walker, Eugene; Dunayevskaya, Raya. The Free Speech Movement and the Negro Revolution


I. Inside Sproul Hall
by Joel L. Pimsleur
Ralph "”

This is as much personal catharsis for me "” purging Thursday's nightmare by putting it on paper "” as it may be an assist to you. But there are certain things that should not go unspoken.

At the risk of moralizing, if any good comes from all this (and I'm still naive enough to think it will), at least one lesson has emerged that must not be missed:

You can crush the idealists, but you cannot crush their idea. . . .

You cannot hit it; you cannot step on it; you cannot kick it; you cannot beat it with a billyclub; you cannot twist its arms; you cannot drag it down the stairs; you cannot hide it behind a screen; you cannot bury it in the basement; you cannot put it in jail; and you cannot silence it.

Ultimately if the idea is good, it will survive its enemies "” for it is more powerful than its advocates. It endows existence with purpose. It will endure, and "” in the end "” prevail.

I won't soon forget the scene of that army of police, massing silently in the night, and a photographer peering out the press room window and remarking with a thin smile: "It seems to me I read all about this somewhere before. In a book called Mein Kampf."

The question might well be asked, why do you need 600 cops to cope with 700 passively resisting kids? This was no prison riot; yet from the police response, you would have thought they were handling convicts, not students.

More important than their number, however, was their attitude. Make no mistake, Ralph, the police weren't simply doing their duty. If they'd merely been the machines, the automatons, the privates in the army of the politicians, they'd have been much better.

But many of them were enjoying their work. They were getting their revenge for the embarrassment of the 33-hour seige of Oct. 1-2 (the incident of the trapped police car). And the air of vindictiveness was unmistakable.

Without indulging in parlor psychology, it was obvious that for many policemen (and this is something that must somehow be precluded in the future) this was a safe way to work out their own frustrated resentment of students and intellectuals.

There was much hilarity in the ranks, as the students were dragged the gauntlet down the long corridors to the stairwell. Very few of them struggled or resisted in any way save going limp, but they were deliberately hauled down the stairs on their backs and tailbones, their arms and wrists twisted "” all to the immense amusement of the Oakland police. And lest anyone think I exaggerate, listen to the cops themselves:

One three-way conversation overheard among the Oakland crew went like this:

"They shouldn'a let those beatniks and kooks in here (the University) in the first place."

"Yea, they're just a bunch of jerks "” we oughtta show 'em."

"Don't worry, wait till we get 'em on the stairs."

Or, while a pair of cops dragged a student down two flights of stairs, a third, surveying the scene from a landing, remarked:

"Hey, don't drag 'em down so fast "” they ride on their heels. Take 'em down a little slower "” they bounce more that way."
Or, outside Sproul, near a parked Santa Rita-bound bus, one of the Alameda Sheriffs Dept. men to another:

"We should do like they do in them foreign countries; beat 'em senseless first, then throw 'em in the bus."
Whatever may emerge from all this, those are indignities that no settlement can erase.

Then there were the contrasting images, and one wondered who were the more violent "” the law breakers or the law enforcers?

The students shielding their public address system with their bodies against a phalanx of helmeted police who'd been told to "kick their way through" to clear a path.

The cops charging up the curving stairs to the second floor, shoving the kids down the steps, some tumbling head first others feet first, stepping on a few with their boots, billyclubbing a couple out of the way, and getting the big speaker "” but missing a smaller one. And as the police retreated, the kids began singing!

"Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom
And before I'll be a slave,
I'll be buried in my grave
And I'll fight for my right
To be free..."

The indomitable spirit of the students was repeatedly revealed by the small incident:

The students using one of the basement's "survival drums" (remnants of the campus' abandoned civil defense program) "” still stocked with year-old water and graham crackers "” as a podium from which to conduct a lecture on Civil Disobedience.

At 4:00 a.m., one of the FSM steering committee leaders waving his hand around the packed, stuffy second floor and observing: "Here lies the body politic."

Some random reactions:

Since when does the press meekly submit to its own suppression? Where were the outraged editorials? Where were the complaints about press censorship, amid all the howls for law and order?

Why were newspapermen barred from watching the bookings? Since when do the cops get the right to plaster papers over windows so reporters can't see what's going on? There's a nice little irony "” newspapers used as a device to keep newspapermen from getting the truth.

Why was an N.B.C. television cameraman blocked at the stairwells and prevented from taking pictures freely "” although he stood there for 15 minutes pleading with the police: "But we're on your side; we want to tell your story; we want to prove to the public that the police aren't brutal . . ."

Why was a C.B.S. campus stringer prevented by the police from getting to the phone "” although the line was being held open for him? And why was the press barred from the basement? So far as I know, I'm the only reporter who managed to get down there, and I have a hunch why "”

Because it was the first time that the basement of a building on a college campus in America was turned into an interrogation cell, where students became political prisoners herded into a detention pen "” awaiting deportation to a prison farm.

(While cops milled around outside the cage "” I use that word deliberately "” teasing the students.)

That's what went on during my sojourn in the Sproul Hall basement "” before the Alameda D.A.'s office invited me upstairs, where the officially approved versions of the news can be reported without ever having to leave whatever "public information office" happens to be handy.

And where was the "administration" all this time? So far as I know, Kerr and Strong never saw a damn thing that went on inside that building "” although they sanctioned it. Since when does an Administration turn over total control of the nerve center of a university to the police "” who not only did not permit free access to the press, but barred the faculty (including members of the Faculty Committee on Student Conduct) from free movement on their own campus!

The total abdication of responsibility, by an administration which has insisted on its prerogatives, cannot be overlooked.

By noon, Thursday, pandemonium prevailed on the campus. An angry crowd jammed the plaza, filled the steps of Sproul Hall and was pressing towards the barricaded doors, and I'm certain that we were 30 seconds short of a riot. The sight of the armed cops was infuriating the students, many of whom were nearly hysterical. The tension was indescribable, and all that was needed was a single provocation . . .

When a dozen highway patrolmen emerged from Sproul "” bent on moving the public address system forward to clear the top step "” a roar of protest went up from the crowd.

Instead of moving back, it surged forward, and only the supreme efforts of two professors (Minsky of the Economics Dept. and Wildavsky of the Political Science Dept.), who struggled through the crowd and on their own managed to convince the officer in charge to pull his men back out of sight "” because their appearance was inflaming the crowd "” managed to restore a modicum of calm.

Not a single representative of the administration was present to perform, much less assist in, this negotiation.

Some basic questions left unanswered.

Why do we revile our own rebels (unless they've been dead for at least 150 years) while revering everybody else's? How is it that the Free French, the Greek partisans, the Irish insurgents, the Hungarian and the Cuban freedom fighters are guaranteed our sympathies "” though they too were certainly "anarchists"?

Was not theirs also a fundamental challenge to the forces of law and order? (Though their grievances were obviously greater, were their goals fundamentally any different?) Is the demand for absolute free speech ever illegitimate?

Even if you granted that free speech was not the issue on this campus, is the demand for the right to partake in full and unfettered political and social action "” which is an issue "” too much to ask in a Democracy?

The FSM requested "too much," "demanded the moon," "wouldn't compromise," "wanted everything," the authorities have said repeatedly "” and the public overwhelmingly agrees. But can there be too much free speech in a free society? Or should the question be quite the opposite: Do you dare compromise with it?

"You cannot shout 'fire!' in a crowd," they argue, or talk unchecked in a classroom. But so far as I know, such "rights" have never been demanded; the most radical of the students have never considered these to be "rights," so they are not now and never have been at issue.

"Law and order must be preserved," contend the authorities (Mulford, Brown, Knowland, McAteer, the newspapers, the Administration, etc., etc.). But are law and order really civilization's ultimate virtues "” or are freedom and justice?

Indeed, law and order are maintained with brilliant efficiency in totalitarian states. Order is only a virtue if it preserves just laws; and laws are only just if they are made by the governed, not the governors.

(This is not to suggest carte blanche for the students to establish their own dictatorship; but it does demand at least a continuing dialogue among students, faculty and administration "” and it totally rejects the concept of government by arbitrary fiat, the regulations changing every other week to fit the moment's expediency. And it does suggest a very basic question: Who represents the heart and core of any university "” the faculty and students, or the administration?)

There is a final point. The old "Red-inspired," "left wing dupes" explanation has already been offered by a number of state legislators, and it is likely that the charge will continue to be aired with increasing frequency. It might therefore be worth asking ourselves why we are willing to keep giving the Communists so much credit. Since when is free speech a Communist idea, or the right to mount political and social action a Communist concept? I thought precisely the opposite.

II. The Theory of Alienation: Marx's Debt to Hegel
by Raya Dunayevskaya
[Editor's Note: This is the lecture most frequently requested by students and civil rights workers.]

The topic "Marx's Debt to Hegel," is neither merely academic, nor does it pertain only to the historical period of Marx's lifetime. From the Hungarian revolt to the African revolutions, from the student demonstrators in Japan to the Negro revolution in the U.S., the struggle for freedom has transformed reality and pulled Hegelian dialectics out of the academic halls and philosophy books on to the living stage of history.

It is true that this transformation of Hegel into a contemporary has been via Marx. It is no accident, however, that Russian Communism's attack on Marx has been via Hegel. Because they recognize in the so-called mystical Absolute "the negation of the negation," the revolution against themselves, Hegel remains so alive and worrisome to the Russian rulers today. Ever since Zhdanov in 1947 demanded that the Russian philosophers find nothing short of "a new dialectical law," or rather, declared "criticism and self-criticism" to be that alleged new dialectical law to replace the Hegelian and objective law of development through contradiction, up to the 21st Congress of the Russian Communist Party where the special philosophic sessions declared Krushchev to be "the true humanist," the attack on both the young Marx and the mystic Hegel has been continuous. It reached a climax in the 1955 attacks on Marx's Early Essays in theory. In actuality it came to life as the Sino-Soviet Pact37 to put down the Hungarian Revolution.

One thing these intellectual bureaucrats sense correctly: Hegel's Concept of the Absolute and the international struggle for freedom are not as far apart as would appear on the surface.

I. The Ideal and the Real are Never Far Apart
It is this which Marx gained from Hegel. It is this which enabled the young Marx, once he broke from bourgeois society, to break also with the vulgar communists of his day who thought that one negation "” the abolition of private property "” would end all the ills of the old society and be the new communal society.

Marx insisted on what is central to Hegelian philosophy, the theory of alienation, from which he concluded that the alienation of man does not end with the abolition of private property "” UNLESS what is most alien of all in bourgeois society, the alienation of man's labor from the activity of self-development into an appendage to a machine, is abrogated. In the place of the alienation of labor, Marx placed, not a new property form, but "the full and free development of the individual."

The pluri-dimensional in Hegel, his presupposition of the infinite capacities of man to grasp through to the "Absolute," not as something isolated in heaven, but as a dimension of the human being, reveals what a great distance humanity had traveled from Aristotle's Absolutes.

Because Aristotle lived in a society based on slavery, his Absolutes ended "Pure Form" "” mind of man would meet mind of God and contemplate how wondrous things are.

Because Hegel's Absolutes emerged out of the French Revolution which put an end to serfdom, Hegel's Absolutes breathed the air, the earthly air of freedom. Even when one reads Absolute Mind as God, one cannot escape the earthly quality of the unity of theory and practice and grasp through to the Absolute Reality as man's attainment of total freedom, inner and outer and temporal. The bondsman, having through his labor gained, as Hegel put it, "a mind of his own," becomes part of the struggle between "consciousness-in-self" and "consciousness-for-itself." Or, more popularly stated, the struggle against alienation becomes the attainment of freedom.

In Hegel's Absolutes there is imbedded, though in abstract form, the full development of what Marx would have called the social individual, and what Hegel called individuality "purified of all that interfered with its universalism," i.e., freedom itself.

Freedom, to Hegel, was not only his point of departure. It was his point return. This is what makes him so contemporary. This was the bridge not only to Marx but to our day, and it was built by Hegel himself.

As Lenin was to discover when he returned to the Marxian philosophic foundations in Hegel during World War I, the revolutionary spirit of the dialectic was not super-imposed upon Hegel by Marx; it is in Hegel.

II. Marx's Critique of, and Indebtedness to, the Hegelian Dialectic
The Communists are not the only ones who try to spirit away the integrality of Marxian and Hegelian philosophy. Academicians also think that Marx is so strange a progeny that he has transformed Hegelian dialectics to the point of non-recognition, if not outright perversion. Whether what Herbert Melville called "the shock of recognition" will come upon us at the end of this discussion remains to be seen, but it is clearly discernible in Marx.

Marx's intellectual development reveals two basic stages of internalizing and transcending Hegel. The first took place during the period of his break with the Young Hegelians, and thrusts at them the accusation that they were dehumanizing the Idea. It was the period when the wrote both his Criticism of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right, and the Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic.

There was nothing mechanical about Marx's new materialist outlook. Social existence determines consciousness, but it is not a confining wall that prevents one's sensing and even seeing the elements of the new society.

In Hegel, too, not only continuity as relation between past and present, but as attraction exerted by the future on the present, and by the whole, even when it does not yet exist, on its parts, is the mainspring of the dialectic.

It helped the young Marx to found a new stage of world consciousness of the proletariat, in seeing that the material base was not what Marx called "vulgar," but, on the contrary, released the subject striving to remake the world.

Marx was not one to forget his intellectual indebtedness either to classical political economy or philosophy. Although he had transformed both into a new world outlook, rooted solidly in the actual struggles of the day, the sources remained the law of value of Smith and Ricardo, and Hegelian dialectics. Of course Marx criticized Hegel sharply for treating objective history as if that were the development of some world-spirit, and analyzing self-development of mind as if ideas floated somewhere between heaven and earth, as if the brain was not in the head of the body of man living in a certain environment and at a specific historic period. Indeed Hegel himself would be incomprehensible if we did not keep in front of our minds the historic period in which he lived "” that of the French Revolution and Napoleon. And, no matter how abstract the language, Hegel indeed had his finger on the pulse of human history.

Marx's Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic is at the same time a critique of the materialist critics of Hegel, including Feuerbach who had treated "the negation of the negation only as the contradiction of philosophy with itself."

Marx reveals, contrariwise, that principle to be the expression of the movement of history itself, albeit in abstract form.

Marx had finished, or rather, broken off his Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic, just as he reached Absolute Mind. Marx's rediscovery of the Absolute came out of the concrete development of the class struggles under capitalism, which split the Absolute into two:

The unemployed army which Marx called "the general absolute law" of capitalist development, the reserve army of unemployed. That was the negative element that would cause its collapse.
"The new forces and passions," the positive element in that negative, which made the workers the "gravediggers" of the old society, and the creators of the new.

It is here "” in the second stage of Marx's relation to the Hegelian dialectic "” that Marx fully transcended Hegel. The split in the philosophic category of the Absolute into two, like the split of the economic category of labor into labor as activity and labor-power as commodity, forged new weapons of comprehension. It enabled Marx to make a leap in thought to correspond to the new, the creative activity of the workers in establishing a society on totally new foundations which would, once and for all, abolish the division between mental and manual labor and unfold the full potentialities of man "” a truly new human dimension.

III. The Human Dimension
Of course it is true that Hegel worked out all the contradictions in thought alone while in life all contradictions remained, multiplied, intensified. Of course where the class struggle did not abolish contradictions, those contradictions plagued not only the economy, but its thinkers. Of course, Marx wrote, that beginning with the first capitalist crisis, the ideologists turned into "prizefighters for capitalism."

But, first and foremost, Marx did not separate ideology and economics as if the latter were the only fundamental, and the former nothing but "show." Marx maintains that they are both as real as life. Throughout his greatest theoretic work, Capital, Marx castigates "the fetishism of commodities" not only because relations of men at production appear as "things," but especially because human relations under capitalism are so perverse that that is not appearance; that is indeed what they really are: Machine is master of man; not man of machine.

Marx's main point was that the driving force of the dialectic was man himself, not just his thought, but the whole of man, beginning with the alienated man at the point of production; and that, whereas bourgeois ideologists, because of their place in production have a false consciousness because they must defend the status quo and are "prisoners of the fetishism of commodities," the proletarian, because of his place in production is the "negative principle" driving to a resolution of contradictions.

In the History of Philosophy Hegel had written "It is not so much from as through slavery that man acquired freedom." Again we see that "Praxis" was not Marx's discovery, but Hegel's. What Marx did was to designate practice as the class struggle activity of the proletariat. In Hegel's theory, too, praxis stands higher than the "Ideal of Cognition" because it has "not only the dignity of the universal but is the simply actual."

It is true that Hegel himself threw a mystical veil over his philosophy by treating it as a closed ontological system. But it would be a complete misreading of Hegel's philosophy were we to think that his Absolute is either a mere reflection of the separation between philosopher and the world of material production, or that his Absolute is the empty absolute of pure or intellectual intuition of the subjective idealists from Fichte through Jacobi to Schelling, whose type of bare unity of subject and object "” as Prof. Bailie has so brilliantly phrased it "” "possessed objectivity at the price of being inarticulate."

Whether, as with Hegel, Christianity is taken as the point of departure, or whether "” as with Marx "” the point of departure is the material condition for freedom created by the Industrial Revolution, the essential element is self-evident: man has to fight to gain freedom; thereby is revealed "the negative character" of modern society.

Now the principle of negativity was not Marx's discovery; he simply named it "the living worker"; the discovery of the principle was Hegel's. In the end, Spirit itself finds that it no longer is antagonistic to the world, but is indeed the indwelling spirit of the community. As Hegel put it in his early writings, "The absolute moral totality is nothing else than a people . . . (and) the people who receive such an element as a natural principle have the mission of applying it."

The humanism of Hegel may not be the most obvious characteristic of that most complex philosophy, and, in part, it was hidden even from Marx, although Lenin in his day caught it even in the simple description of the Doctrine of the Notion "as the realm of Subjectivity OR freedom." Or man achieving freedom not as a "possession," but a dimension of his being.

It is this dimension of the human personality which Marx saw in the historical struggles of the proletariat that would once and for all put an end to all class divisions and open up the vast potentialities of the human being so alienated in class societies, so degraded by the division of mental and manual labor that not only is the worker made into an appendage of a machine, but the scientist builds on a principle which would lead society to the edge of an abyss.

One hundred years before Hiroshima, Marx wrote, "To have one basis for science and other for life is a priori, a lie." We have lived this lie for so long that the fate of civilization, not merely rhetorically, but literally, is within orbit of a nuclear ICBM. Since the very survival of mankind hangs in the balance between the East's and the West's nuclear terror, we must, this time, under the penalty of death, unite theory and practice in the struggle for freedom, thereby abolishing the division between philosophy and reality and giving ear to the urgency of "realizing" philosophy, i.e., of making freedom a reality.