PLURALISTIC SOCIETY OR CLASS
[Trotskyist] group leaflet, early December, 1964.
All good political science majors know how this
society functions. It is a dynamic balance of various interests and pressure groups
ranging from organized labor, to downtown merchants to the John Birch Society. Of course.
To speak of class rule is to exhibit naivete and bad taste. Worse yet, it is to "use
the rhetoric of the thirties."
Now Governor Brown (the good, gray "vector
zero" product of the pluralistic society) has turned the cops loose on Berkeley
students and is vowing to put down "anarchy and revolution." Does the governor's
charge have any substance? The issue which first brought the students onto the scene was
civil rights. In theory, racial equality is fully compatible with the present social
order. Indeed, the abstract model of the society works better with racial equality than
without it. Civil rights, therefore, is a reformist demand. The actual society, however,
is so beset by internal contradictions and external conflicts, and racism so deeply
imbedded in it, that the demand for racial equality in practice takes on a revolutionary
character. Hence the crackdown on student civil liberties. The campus had to be sealed off
from the community because, with the prospect of deepening struggles in the black ghettos,
the students were not only a powerful force in their own right but also threatened to
provide a link between the ghetto and potential anti-status-quo forces in the white
community. The fight for civil rights led to a fight for civil liberties. Civil liberties,
too, are theoretically a reformist issue and are even enshrined in the political
constitution of the society. But the actual exercise of civil liberties by dissidents (as
opposed to their theoretical expostulation by establishment intellectuals) is also a
revolutionary threat and is reacted to as such by the authorities.
What have the Berkeley students uncovered?
First, in pursuance of civil rights, they have taken on such bastions of private property
as the Bank of America and the Oakland Tribune. The response of the UC
administration, which, via the Board of Regents, is responsible to these same forces, was
to curtail student civil liberties. Finding themselves unable to secure their rights
within the rules made and changed at will by their enemies, the FSM resorted to militancy,
civil disobedience, and a traditional class weapon, the strike. While the faculty sweated
and equivocated, the liberal Democratic governor, who knows what power is, called out the
What the Berkeley students have exposed is not
merely a vast and inept bureaucracy, but a coherent ruling-class structure. It runs all
the way from the agro-business, banking, mining, railroad, utility, and newspaper
capitalists and their direct representatives on the Board of Regents through the
Democratic governor and the university administration down to the point of application,
the police club. When Brown calls the FSM revolutionary, he speaks the truth, despite the
fact that FSM fights only for rights supposedly guaranteed within a democratic capitalist
society. In this struggle the students, whatever their intentions may have been, have
given a clear and dramatic demonstration of how bourgeois class rule works. They have
shown it too moribund and fearful to grant even those rights which are supposed to be its
These exposures are invaluable lessons for other
actual and potential enemies of this ruling class, such as the automation victims, farm
laborers, the ghetto masses, indeed, all sections of the working class. To the extent that
they learn these lessons, and come to understand their stake in this Free Speech Movement,
they will aid the embattled students with their numerical strength, organization, and
economic power. This revelation of class power will mark a significant step in a process
of increasing political and class consciousness which must lead to a movement that will
have the strength to effect the final solution of the whole gamut of problems which are
now the students' concern.
Pat Brown calls it "revolution."