[Marxism] 40 years since the Berkeley Free Speech Movement

lshan at bcn.net lshan at bcn.net
Sat Feb 28 18:21:13 MST 2004

I sent this to a student at a New England college. I thought that it might
also interest Marxmail.

As you may know, I was one of the leaders of the Berkeley Free Speech
Movement--I guess secondary or lesser-known leader would be more accurate. I
organized the "independents committee," created the database of over 800
students that was used by all of the "strike central" committees to organize
leafleting, press relations, phone trees (including sororities and to a
lesser extent fraternities, and the important "Rossman Report." I also
chaired (moderated) the FSM executive committee until, frustrated with the
fact that due to FSM activity I was dropping out of law school (again!), I
lost my temper and thus my legitimacy as an impartial chairperson.

This is all to introduce the following article, written just after the Free
Speech Movement, by an important essayist and critic of the period. (Note
that it appeared in The New Yorker.) Although there is a certain cynicism in
his tone, I think that it is a very comprehensive and accurate description
of what we went through and what our attitude(s) were.

It might also interest your Democratic Socialist group. The YSA or Young
Socialist Alliance was the group that I was organizer (chair) of for the
1961-62 academic year. Hal Draper's group was similar and larger, but less
sympathetic to the Cuban Revolution and the economic gains of the soviet
bloc and China. Although the article slights the Communist Party, the 3 or 4
members that were on the campus were very respected as individuals. I should
also note that the DuBois clubs and by extension, the Communist Party, also
played a key role in organizing very significant San Francisco Bay Area
civil rights actions. These actions and planned future actions were what the
university was trying to curb when it imposed the new restrictive rules
against which the Free Speech Movement fought.

Eventually someone will write a book on the changes on college and
university campuses that stem from the success of the Berkeley FSM. Even
before the Vietnam antiwar movement, many campus administrators, seeing what
was in the wind, began making the reforms that campuses now enjoy.

The 40th Reunion of the FSM will take place in October, and I definitely
intend to be there.

from Brian Shannon

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