Berkeley: The New Student Revolt
by Hal Draper
This story of the "free speech"
uprising on the Berkeley campus of the University of California was begun in the
conviction that an extraordinary event, in an historical sense, had taken place before our
startled citizenry; and that it should be described for history as it was. This is the way
"Historical"? This episode did not
change history, but it did reflect an aspect of current history which is easily
overlooked, and will continue to be overlooked until further explosions impel
retrospective glances. This aspect is the molecular -- "underground" --
crystallization of currents of discontent, dissent and disaffection among a people which
in its large majority is one of the most politically apathetic in the world (even after we
take into account the "great exception" in America, the Negroes' fight for
Judging by its frequency, the unexpected in
social history is what should be expected; but that we should actually do so is too much
to expect. The "suddenness" of any outburst in nature or society is, of course,
only a function of our ignorance. The next big earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area
will be sudden, but the geologists tell us to expect it in anywhere from seven weeks to
seventy years; they chart the fault lines and record the small slippages that occur daily.
In society, however, it is one of the functions of the Establishment scientists to paper
over the fault lines and explain away the slippage jolts.
Fault lines now run through many sections of our
tranquilized society. There is, for instance, in many places an "underground"
labor movement dual to the official one, unacknowledged by any of the bureaucracies and
unknown to the Ph.D. theses in industrial relations. The disparate social forces frozen in
the Johnsonian consensus are marked with fine crack-lines like old pots. This was the case
also among American Negroes at the moment before the Birmingham battles, after which the
earth yawned. It is the case among the students now, and everyone knows it today only
because of Berkeley.
This is the way it was: but I make no
claim to impartiality. Like everyone else in Berkeley who has written about these events,
I have taken sides. Because of a dim view of the academy's habit of clothing bitter
polemic in bland "objective" jargon -- a form of institutionalized hypocrisy
which has great advantages for both the writer and his butt but none for the reader who
wants to know what the argument is about -- there is no pretense here to the colorless
detachment of the uninvolved historian. We were all involved.
On the contrary I have tried to convey something
more than the events: something of the inner "feel" and flavor of the students'
movement (I mean: that which moved the students). I have inserted my personal impressions
at some points, as a participant; but I think these are clearly distinguished as such.
Objectivity is another matter. As a non-student
member of the university community -- its library staff -- I had no obligation or pressure
to take sides except as the issues demanded it. My participation, like many others', was
peripheral; I never attended, even as an observer, any of the meetings of the FSM leading
committees, and viewed its day-to-day operation from the outside, sometimes highly
critically. What I did commit myself to, actively, was defense of the Free Speech Movement
before the university community, both at FSM rallies and at other meetings on and around
the campus. I do not think that such engagement is inconsistent with the demands of
objectivity, certainly not more than the involvement of others who damned the FSM in
private and publicly wrote "scientifically objective" hatchet-jobs.
Factual accuracy is still another matter.
Virtually all accounts of the Berkeley movement that I have seen, on all sides, are
peppered with errors of fact, often quite untendentious. More than once, in checking
points of detail with people who were on the spot, I was able to confirm the famous
lawyers', historians' and psychologists' principle that few people remember accurately
what happens before their very eyes.
The account in this book has been read and
checked, in whole or in part, by a number of FSM activists, and to these students'
corrections and suggestions I owe a debt of gratitude for scores of changes and
modifications, especially but not only on the factual side. They were: Ron Anastasi,
Barbara and Marvin Garson, Joel Geier, Arthur Lipow, Michael Parker, James Petras, Michael
Rossman, Martin Roysher, Mario Savio, Michael Shute, and Stephan Weissman; and to this
list Prof. John Leggett of the Sociology Department must also be added. Of course none of
these bears any responsibility whatsoever for the present form of this book or any
opinions expressed in it.
I also attempted to get the manuscript checked
for factual accuracy by representatives of the university administration Mr. Richard
Hafner, public relations officer for the Berkeley administration, kindly answered a number
of specific factual questions, and also agreed to read the manuscript; but arrangements
for this reading went awry through no fault of his and to my regret. In contrast: for the
state-wide administration, Vice President David Fulton, the highest officer in charge of
public relations under President Kerr, promised very amicably both to answer specific
questions and to read the manuscript, but subsequently declined even to acknowledge
reminders; I presume this decision in public relations was not his own. In addition, there
is a long list of participants whom I have interviewed on specific points.
Three rich sources of documentary material
consulted Should also be mentioned; as far as I know they have not been previously tapped
for this purpose: (1) The scores of reels of tape, made daily on the scene throughout the
events, by Pacifica Radio, station KPFA, for the use of which I am indebted to Mr. Burton
White of this unique listener-supported institution; (2) The transcripts of the trial of
the FSM sit-in defendants; (3) The "FSM Archives," a depository of documents,
leaflets, clippings, etc. kindly made available to me by Mr. Marston Schultz.
The problem of selection in the second part of
this book, "Voices from Berkeley," has been difficult because of lack of space
to include everything that demanded entrance. The aim of this section is to give the
reader an insight into how the students thought and felt, through their own writings and
through writings which reflected them. It is obviously one-sided in terms of the
controversial questions; I hasten to point this out. But this concentration on the
students' side of the picture has been made easier by the knowledge that there has been
more than plentiful ventilation of the other side (or sides) in the nation's newspapers
and magazines as well as in others books published this year. There is probably no one in
the Berkeley community -- not even myself -- who would give unqualified agreement to
everything between these covers; these students are an exasperatingly independent-minded
lot with a prejudice against unanimity. But it will be satisfying enough if at the end you
say: "I remain unconvinced that what the students did was right; but I
To this end there are two supplements to the
material in this book which need mention: (1) An illuminating photographic history with
running text, The Trouble in Berkeley, edited by Steven Warshaw (Berkeley, Diablo
Press, 1965); (2) The text of the only debate on the FSM controversy which took place on
the Berkeley campus, between Professor Nathan Glazer and myself, on January 9, 1965, as
part of a conference sponsored by the Independent Socialist Club (the full transcript,
including most especially the cross-discussion and summaries, has been published in the
quarterly New Politics, Vol. 4, No. 1).
The most dangerous nonsense about the Berkeley
uprising is represented by the cries foretelling the destruction of the university unless
the students are forthwith bullied and bashed into submissive quiescence. Everything that
has happened has made many prouder than ever to be associated with the University of
California (a term not synonymous with any administration) -- not in spite of what has
happened, but because it was able to happen here. The intellectual vitality and ferment
which produced it, and which it produced in turn, add a new dimension to one of the great
universities of the world, and a new criterion by which to judge others. By this standard
Berkeley stands as a beacon light for American students. The university can indeed be
destroyed, but only if its own administration and Regents try to stifle the breath of life
that has blown through its halls.
Berkeley, July 1965
P.S. While this was being written, the trial of
the FSM sit-inners ended with the judge's decision in favor of conviction, on grounds of
trespassing and resisting arrest (by going limp); the charges of unlawful assembly were
thrown out. The cases will be appealed, in order to test important points of law, but a
great deal of money will be needed. It can come only from people who believe that hundreds
of dedicated students should not be crucified for their success in stopping an attack on
campus freedoms. Ten per cent of the author's royalties on this book is going to the
defendants' Legal Fund. It is to be hoped that there will be sufficient support to see