Thanks for that post about Joe Blum, Bill. I think it would be good to
collect stories like these about 60s activists staying relevant and
active in a variety of ways --a good source of documentation against the
typical media-hyped bullshit about 'sellouts.' Other good sources on
this are Doug McAdam's Freedom Summer and Jack Whalen & Dick Flack's
Beyond the Barricades.
William Mandel wrote:
> Joe Blum is the subject of a huge article (3/4 page) in, of
> all places, the Business section of yesterday's San Fran Examiner
> & Chronicle. Accompanied by three photos, it describes his
> current reincarnation as photographer of industrial work in
> present-day San Francisco and his exhibit (this is its last week)
> at the somARTS Cultural Center there. It reports that he has just
> retired from 25 years in metal shops and shipyards, that he is
> completing his work for a doctorate in sociology at UC Berkeley,
> and that an award-winning essay of his on his shipyard
> experiences will be published in Global Ethnography, to be
> brought out by the University of California Press.
> The article is open-mouthed at the idea of an industrial
> worker becoming a scholar, although the reporter in her research
> discovered two earlier local cases.
> There's a bigger story behind that, and some professor on this
> list ought to work on that or interest a grad student in making a
> Ph.D. of it.
> The story is that of how 60s activists have found ways to stay
> relevant after the r-revolution faded out and the world changed
> in unpredicted ways. I was first struck by that a few months ago
> at the 40th anniversary get-together of veterans of the UCB
> student party, SLATE.
> Joe Blum's case is that of a subset of 60s veterans. In the
> mid-60s, he and I were members of the editorial board of THE
> MOVEMENT, SNCC monthly. I remember him scaring the crap out of me
> by taking an impressive-looking revolver out and laying it on the
> table at a board meeting, most definitely not against anyone
> there but in case we were raided. He also helped fund us by
> winning at cards at Lake Tahoe because of his ability to remember
> every card played, to the point at which the casinos finally
> barred him.
> As the 60s wound down, the question arose as to what to do to
> further the struggle. A number of the people I knew had become
> Marxists. I argued that the place for them to go was the working
> class, since Marxism views it as the group that will overthrow
> capitalism. Several did make that choice. Whether or not Joe did
> so because of my advice I don't know, but he went into the
> classical proletariat of heavy industry.
> That proletariat has declined sharply in numbers, particularly
> in the Bay Area. Joe reached retirement age. What to do now?
> Loyal both to his ideals and the people he became part of, he
> decided to perpetuate their work for history, inter alia via
> photography. He told the reporter: "I never thought I had a
> creative bone in my body. I'm glad they're quality photographs,
> but...I would like people to have an appreciation of...what it
> takes to do this kind of work. People take it for granted."
> And, having come out of the student movement, it was natural
> for him to go back for his doctorate, which will open new doors.
> Each of us is required, if we want to stay more than just
> physically alive, to find new outlets as we reach major turning
> points of age. The fact is that is precisely what happened with
> me. It was members of that SNCC editorial board who first
> suggested to me, thirty years ago, that I write an autobiography,
> because of experiences from the 30s through the 50s that I would
> use to reinforce suggestions or arguments at our meetings. I
> postponed even an attempt at that for fifteen years. But when it
> was clear that the American people would re-elect Ronald Reagan,
> I became desperate at what was clearly a sea-change to the Right,
> thought my life had been wasted, and wondered what I could do
> that would be of use. That led me to the conclusion that putting
> those experiences, and the thinking they prompted, down on paper,
> would be the best service I could perform for a new militant
> generation whenever it would come. Ultimately, Saying No To Power
> was the result.
> William Mandel
> To be removed from list, e-mail "Opt Out."
> You may find of interest website www.BillMandel.net
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jul 25 2000 - 19:03:54 CUT