"Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization,
based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust
the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals,
and county commissioners."
Since Runnymede those in a position auger have been doing their black-hearted best to re-establish their Divine Rights. And, if I'm not mistaken, the assholes have just about got the job done. One of the nails in the coffin of Human Rights was hammered home in August, 1968.
Culturally and politically 1968 was one of the most rambunctious years in American history. The War in Vietnam had become the longest conflict in U.S. History. And as American casualties passed 30,000 anti-war protesters spilled out larger, louder and angrier than ever in the streets and on campuses nationwide. The Tet Offensive caught U.S, troops by surprise as coordinated attacks by the Viet Cong peppered South Vietnam. At Columbia University students commandeered the University's president's office and held three hostages to protest the school's ties to the Department of Defense. Phil and Daniel Berrigan, two Jesuit priests, torched draft records with napalm at a Maryland Selective Service center. In March American troops slaughtered scores of civilians at My Lai. In April Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis after which riots erupted in 125 cities (46 dead). Lyndon Johnson, President of the United States, withdrew from the Presidential race. Robert Kennedy entered the race and was shot dead at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night he won the California primary.
And it was in 1968 that two quite different groups came together to discuss using the Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a means to highlight their opposition to the war and other social injustice.
One of the groups was MOBE (the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam). MOBE was a coalition of old-school communo-socialist lefties (The irony is not lost is that a number of the old-style Trotskyites, Maoists and Leninists grew up, shifted sharp right and became the core of the Neo-Conservatives who, to this day, still seem focused on one-world homogeny, but of a more fascist color.).
The other group was the Yippies (the Youth International Party). The Yippies had planned a "Festival of Life" in Chicago during the Democratic Convention. As an announcement of their plan, in January, 1968, the Yippies released a directive.
"Join us in Chicago in August for an international festival of youth, music, and theater. Rise up and abandon the creeping meatball! Come all you rebels, youth spirits, rock minstrels, truth-seekers, peacock-freaks, poets, barricade-jumpers, dancers, lovers and artists!
"It is summer. It is the last week in August, and the NATIONAL DEATH PARTY meets to bless Lyndon Johnson. We are there! There are 50,000 of us dancing in the streets, throbbing with amplifiers and harmony. We are making love in the
parks. We are reading, singing, laughing, printing newspapers, groping, and making a mock convention, and celebrating the birth of FREE AMERICA in our own time.
"Everything will be free. Bring blankets, tents, draft-cards, body-paint, Mrs. O' Leary's Cow, food to share, music, eager skin, and happiness. The threats of LBJ, Mayor Daley, and J. Edgar Freako will not stop us. We are coming! We are coming from
all over the world!
"The life of the American spirit is being torn asunder by the forces of violence, decay, and the napalm-cancer fiend. We demand the Politics of Ecstasy! We are the delicate spores of the new fierceness that will change America. We will create our own reality, we are Free America! And we will not accept the false theater of the Death Convention.
"We will be in Chicago. Begin preparations now! Chicago is yours! Do it!"
The primary spokespersons for the Yippies were Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, a couple of theatrical looney-tune radicals from New York City. Rubin announced plans to nominate a pig (Pigasus, the Immortal) as the Yippie's candidate for President, and Hoffman began describing the Festival of Life as a "Fuck-In". In a Yippie program distributed in August of 1968 Festival attendees were encouraged to bring "sleeping bags...extra food...bottles of fireflies, cold cream...love beads, extra toothbrushes, see-through blouses, manifestos...and tenacity." The program listed activities such as "political arousal speeches", fly-casting exhibitions, rock music and "a dawn ass-washing ceremony."
"Psychedelic long-haired mutant-jissomed peace leftists will consort with known dope fiends, spilling out onto the sidewalks in porn-ape disarray each afternoon....Two-hundred thirty rebel cocksmen under secret vows are on a 24-hour alert to get the pants off the daughters and wives and kept women of the convention delegates."
In August, 1968, Mayor Richard J. Daley put Chicago's 12,000 cops on twelve hour shifts and their strength was augmented by 7,500 Army troops and 6,000 National Guardsmen locked and loaded. Starting Sunday, August 25th and escalating to a fever pitch on Wednesday, August 28th, uniformed agents of the State kicked hippie butt. But the cops weren't discriminatory in their rage. They savagely attacked not only Lefties, but also innocent bystanders, photographers, a plethora of newsmen, members of the clergy and at least one cripple. Playboy's Hugh Hefner stepped out of the safety of his Playboy Mansion on North State Parkway to see what the ruckus was about and was whacked on the ass by a rampaging cop, and a member of the British Parliament was maced outside the Conrad Hilton hotel and hustled off to the lockup. Monied patrons out for dinner were shoved through plate-glass windows and beaten senseless amid broken glass and foie gras . Mayor Daley -- who slaughtered the English language nearly as effeciently as George W. Bush -- went on television and explained "The policeman isn't there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder."
Eight of the protesters -- Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, John Froines, Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner and Black Panther Bobby Seal were charged with conspiring to incite a riot (Bobby Seal, after being bound and gagged in the courtroom, was tried separately after a mistrial was declared and the larger group became known as the "Chicago Seven".)
Abbie Hoffman said of the charges "I don't know if I'm gulity or not. We can't even agree on lunch." Norman Mailer -- rather naively, I think -- said the conspirators "understood that you didn't have to attack the fortress anymore." All they had to do was "surround it, make faces at the people inside and let them have nervous breakdowns and destroy themselves." Would that it had been that simple.
Five of the Seven were found guilty (Froines and Weiner were aquitted). On February 20, 1970, Judge Julius Hoffman sentenced the defendants to five years in prison plus a $5,000 fine. Each defendant was allowed a statement at the time of sentencing. Abbie Hoffman recommended that the judge try LSD. "I know a good dealer in Florida. I could fix you up." Jerry Rubin presented the judge with a copy of his new book, Do It! ( for which I had done some illustrations), inscribed: "Julius, you radicalized more young people than we ever could. You're the country's top Yippie."
On November 21, 1972, the Seventh Court of Appeals reversed all of the convictions.
I had developed a friendship with Abbie Hoffman throughout 1967 and 1968. I don't know about you, but the sexy perversity of anarchy has always held more appeal for me than the pedantic priggishness of either the left or the right. And Abbie was the epitome of the anarchistic spirit. He had become the lightening rod of the Movement, an outrageous media personality who simultaneously galvanized the counter-culture and provoked their parents and the Agents of the State. He was perhaps the last great American radical.
Shortly after I'd moved to Chicago in the Spring of 1967, The Seed, Chicago's underground newspaper switched ownership. The original publisher was a heroin addict and operated a headship called the Molehole. The paper was all peace, love, acid and ornate non sequitur. But that was about to change. There was a lot of vagabondage among the youth in those days. Everyone seemed to be on the road, the herd moving from east to west and, more often than not, setting down roots in the Haight. As a result, it seemed like everybody came through Chicago. A handful of young Jewish radicals from New York City blew into town, decided to stay and took over the publication of the Chicago Seed. The paper rapidly moved out of the sphere of the flowerchildren and became tougher, more streetwise and entrenched in radical politics. Sensing a brotherhood of knaves and outlaws, I began contributing my comix to the paper.
It was at the Seed that I began running into Abbie on a regular basis. In many ways we were brother rats. Our approach to politics was immoderate, puerile, insolent and funny -- unlike the traditional Lefties who were more somber and doctrinaire (I was with Abbie at a feminist rally in Lincoln Park. The women at the podium had their fists raised and were chanting "Right On!". Abbie grinned at me and sniggered "Right In!".) My means of delivery was comic art. Abbie's was himself.
Abbie was an absurdist, a Groucho Marxist. Thomas Paine on windowpane. And the boy really knew how to manipulate the media. The cameras were always on him as he performed surreal feats of Magick on the electronic soapbox. He reveled in Chaos, instigated it, opened Pandora's box and danced naked with the Furies. In Spring 1967 Abbie organized a bunch of friends to throw dollar bills from the visitor's gallery at the New York Stock Exchange, disrupting the trading day as button-down, three-piece suits scrambled and fought for the cash. He organized and led an "Exorcism of the Pentagon". 50,000 people held hands, surrounded the building and chanted "Out demons, out!" as they attempted to levitate the building with their combined psychic energy. He was arrested for wearing a shirt resembling an American flag (Now worn by the conservative fuckwad contingency at any given opportunity,). The police ripped it off of him only to discover a North Vietnamese flag painted on his body. And the radical Lefties were not let off scott-free. In September 1968, Abbie invaded the National SDS conclave, an aggregation of would-be aparatchiks -- Maoists, Marxists, Leninists, Trotskites. Dressed in a cowboy hat, flowered shirt and boots he jumped onto the aspirant commissars' table and turned the somber meeting upside down as he joked, mocked and cajoled the sober Commies while spinning a day-glow yo-yo. He believed in Revolution for the Hell of it, which is title of his (arguably) best book.
Abbie asked me to draw up some chapter illustrations for "Steal This Book" (After publication Abbie said "It's embarrrassing, you try to overthow the government and you wind up on a Best Sellers List."). And invited me down to the courthouse to sit in and sketch the proceedings at the Conspiracy Trial.
The Conspiracy Seven trial was a major media event. In the hallway outside the courtroom reporters and journalists from around the world were there on assignment. The place was jammed. I wandered through the crowd and Jerry Rubin hailed me down, "Hey, Skip. Over here!" He greeted me enthusiastically and introduced me to some of the people around him. "C'mere and meet Jules Feiffer," he said. Feiffer was on assignment for the Village Voice. I guess Jerry figured that, since we were both cartoonists, Feiffer would welcome me as a brother. However Feiffer was disdainful and aloof. Clearly I was smear on the good name of cartooning and was not accorded either respect or acknowledgment.
I showed Jerry a sheath of drawings I'd done of the defendants. He giggled earnestly and called out "Hey, Abbie. Get over here and check this out!" Abbie wandered over and looked at my drawings. When he got to the big-nosed, kinky-haired caricature I'd done of him he wasn't pleased. Which made Jerry Rubin giggle even louder. "Hee,hee,hee,hee!" Abbie fumed as Jerry chortled. But there was the business at hand and the distraction of my unflattering drawing was left in the dust as we were funneled toward the courtroom doors.
Because the courtroom was so packed -- and I had no press credentials -- the only way I would be allowed access was if I was a relative of one of the defendants. The Federal Marshall at the door pointed at me and asked "Who is this guy?" Abbie put his arm around my shoulders and said "Dis is my sistah." The Federal Marshall smiled and I was allowed into the courtroom. As strode past the Marshall I gave him a glance at my drawing of Abbie. "Hee,hee,hee, hee." I could hear the Marshall's laughter trailing off as I found my seat in the gallery. Abbie shot me a dirty look from the defendant's table.
It's been a long haul since the Sixties and lessons of History have not been learned. Liberals still show themselves to be weak-kneed, spineless wimps and compliant stooges of the Ruling Class. Conservatives are Draconian power brokers, corrupt, mean-spirited liars, as always. It all leads to the destruction of our Rights and Freedom. They'd have us believe that the price of Freedom is Freedom itself.
Abbie Hoffman committed suicide April 12, 1989. At least that's the official story. At the time he had been regularly lecturing audiences about the CIA's covert activities, including assassinations disguised as suicide. His final words: "It's too late. We can't win, they've gotten too powerful."