Re: [sixties-l] Re: FSM credits

From: William M Mandel (
Date: 10/16/00

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        W. J. Rorabaugh's Berkeley At War contains a Berkeley police photo from the
    Bancroft Library collection showing a Sproul Hall steps rally of December 4, 1964.
    More than two dozen faces are clearly identifiable. The police chose to run lines to
    and write on the photo and in its margins the following names, from left to right:
    "Savio, Jack Kurzweil, Wm. Mandel, Brian Turner, Jr., Howard Jeter, Steve Weisman."
         I have never sought to obtain the FBI files on me because of the preposterous
    and simply ignorant stuff about me in their file on a one-time president-elect of the
    American Translators Association, who sent that to me. How they could write that I
    was employed as a writer by International Arts and Sciences Press when the
    correspondence between that firm and myself is utterly clear about my being a
    translator and only a translator, I don't know. Likewise there were addresses that
    were a matter of public record, which their informant reported as unknown. As to
    association at the time of FSM (if I read Jo Freeman correctly, that's what she was
    writing about) with any "subversive" organization, the FBI had the best of reason to
    know that I had none, because I made effective use of that fact in my HUAC testimony,
    as the chair, Willis of Louisiana, showed that he clearly understood.
        When Goines' book appeared, omitting me, I wrote him in detail, explaining and
    documenting why I thought I belonged in it. He wrote me that that would be corrected
    if a revised edition ever appeared.
        As to how my association with FSM occurred, I describe it as follows in the
    chapter, "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30," in my autobiography, SAYING NO TO POWER, which
    was purchased by several FSM members last year at a small reunion at which Rossman
    was present:
        "One evening in the fall of 1964 I was handed a leaflet on Telegraph Avenue, the
    students' main drag. It invited non-students to come to a meeting to organize in
    support of students. The conveners actually had ex-student youth in mind rather than
    older people, but had no objection when a very few individuals their parents' age
    showed up. On the strength of whatever it was I said, plus support articulated by
    younger people who referred back to my HUAC hearing as well as my KPFA broadcasts,
    then very widely listened to on campus, I was elected the body's alternate delegate
    to the Free Speech Movement Executive Committee." Brad Cleveland, author of a
    brilliant pamphlet on what was wrong with education at the university, was the
    regular delegate.
        In the pages that follow I offer my view of the FSM. When the Executive Committee
    voted for the Sproul Hall sit-in, I argued for a strike instead "because I knew how
    much energy needed to raise funds for bail and lawyers would be diverted from the
    movement. People would be hurt....The night of the FSM event [sit-in] I went home,
    only to be roused by a phone call from son Dave....I went down, and at perhaps two or
    three in the morning a very pregnant young woman was permitted by the police to leave
    Sproul Hall. She came to me and told me of the decision of the Steering Committee:
    'O.K., Mr. Mandel, you have your strike.'"
        With respect to Michael Rossman I had a very particular attitude. I describe this
    on pp. 460-461. The previous paragraphs were about a couple, courageous pre-war white
    Communists in the deep South, of whom the wife had informed on me to the Party
    leadership for my heretical views with respect to the Soviet Union as early as during
    World War II. Decades later, visiting from Hawaii, she looked me up in Berkeley,
    asked if we could have lunch, and we did:
        "Perhaps, to use her words in a later letter, I was sweet and generous to one who
    realized she had done me wrong, but never -- not to this day -- to those who wrote me
    out of the history of events to which I had contributed. Mike Rossman had been a
    participant in the demonstration against the HUAC hearing where I testified, and was
    a major figure in the Free Speech Movement at U.C.Berkeley in 1964-5. His WEDDING IN
    THE WAR, dealing with those years, was published in 1974. I wrote him:
        "'I've been looking at your book. Fuck you....I would never have written this
    letter if I were not hurt (of course I'm hurt) by bleing erased from the event that
    launched the national movement among white students and made Berkeley a noun, an
    adjective, and a verb as well as a place name. But a writer with some profundity,
    realizing that the '60s are gone (that you do) would have asked himself about their
    place in this country's continuing history, and would have been intrigued by the very
    rare individuals who had the capacity to bridge the gap between the style and
    experiences of the '30s and those of the '60s....And what it is that enables such
    individuals to bridge such gaps is of a great deal more importance than a personal
    anecdote to the future movement...
        "'How come the editors of the SNCC-affiliated THE MOVEMENT...asked if I would be
    one of them: again the only person of my generation they would have anything to do
    with on a day-to-day basis? That was 1966-1968, not ancient history....
        "'Perhaps I have an inflated notion of how students regarded me? Then why did
    Michael Lerner [who later became a national figure as editor of TIKKUN and confidant
    of first lady Hillary Clinton] ask me if I would debate Clark Kerr, then still
    president of the university?'
        "'A couple of days ago a guy of your generation told me of a lecture program at
    his university that he thought he could fit me into: Forgotten Americans. "You are a
    forgotten American, aren't you?" I laughed in recognition and without hurt. But being
    forgotten means that I was once present in people's consciousness. In no one's more
    than in Mike Rossman's From 1960 to 1964, whenever we ran into each other, there
    was...admiration in your eyes, your smile, your voice, your manner [because of my
    role in the 1960 HUAC hearing]. After FSM that changed, for the best of reasons. Your
    generation developed its own heroes and a self-confidence within the very
    uncertainty. You were no exception....I don't think I should be the central figure in
    the narration of the HUAC incident....But once the hosing took place, to write of the
    subsequent events without me is bullshit'."
                                                                    William Mandel
    Michael Rossman wrote:
    > Jo Freeman writes, re her post responding to Bill Mandel, "Since Michael
    > Rossman thought my attempt at humor was an 'unseemly taunt' let me stick to
    > facts," and goes on at delicious length.
    > Jeepers, Jo, I do apologize, not least because I can hear my scold as not only
    > casual but sanctimonious. What you wrote was funny indeed, but I had not
    > grasped it as intentional humor. I am likely over-sensitive and -reactive to
    > nuances of (projected?) nastiness, since the last substantive online
    > conference I attended was a dysfunctional carnage despite its austere topic,
    > the physics of consciousness. As Mandel is so concerned about his place in
    > history, on reading what seemed in context an unnecessary  reminder that his
    > role in the FSM is debateable, I winced from a sense of how it might strike
    > him, as well as from  apprehension of the roughening of a conversation that
    > had been settling to determined civility. Which my scold hardly helped.
    > Meanwhile, separately, I have found myself responding to Mandel on another
    > point for which he may claim credit excessively (prophesy of the New Left),
    > and so risking the same dynamics. Perhaps my scold was a try to stand on the
    > other side before poking him myself.
    > Whatever, I hope you will hear "goes on at delicious length" not as a jab but
    > as sincere tribute, with a chuckle; for every word was valuable to me,
    > particularly the last paragraph. If a scold on any other topic related to the
    > FSM can prompt such substantive response, I trust you'll forgive me.
    >                                 ******
    > With that said, I observe that your recent posts, though informative, do not
    > fully account Mandel's place in the FSM. As I haven't yet read his memoirs, my
    > own recollection and assessment are neither contaminated nor corrected by
    > contact with his -- save by my digestion of his recent brief post about ExCom
    > and his role, and his various reminders at public gatherings over the years. I
    > am hardly objective; but as I am not in his fan-club and am resistant to
    > assigning excess credits, my view of Mandel's place in the FSM might be taken
    > as a minimum of his credit.
    > His credit surely varied, not only from person to person but between
    > sub-generations of activists, depending also on when they came here. For many
    > in my cohort who had been in the Bay Area since 1960, Mandel was an authentic
    > hero of sorts, much less for his persistent and public scholarship of Soviet
    > affairs than for his role in the anti-HUAC demonstrations. I forget whether
    > his passionate rhetoric in the inquisition room, the day after they beat and
    > hosed us down the steps -- "Honorable sadists and beaters of children," etc.
    > -- was heard then only in that room, or in the crowded hall outside, the
    > streets beyond where five thousand gathered, or live over KPFA. But surely
    > word of it cheered and enthused us -- though it must be said also that his
    > speech was more a delicious entertainment than uniquely inspirational, as the
    > spirit was full in our massive presence already and was fed by others defying
    > the inquisitors. Regardless, its repeated broadcast over KPFA and its
    > publication on the station's LP record of the affair helped make it a
    > (sub)cultural highlight of that era, a justly-celebrated emblem of righteous
    > resistance to freedom's erosion.
    > This process made Mandel perhaps the first local (and national) Hero of the
    > emerging New Left -- and in retrospect provides perhaps the first example in
    > this era of the way progressive media conduced to the kind of mainstream
    > character amplification that later gave us Leaders identified as such. It is
    > interesting to speculate about how Mandel might have fared and developed had
    > he not been willingly subject to such reductive amplification, which for many
    > others as willing (e.g. Jerry Rubin) or reluctant (Mario Savio) had
    > unfortunate effects. Regardless, there was a paradox latent in Mandel's status
    > as Hero to us, though we hardly grasped it at the time. For our relation was
    > quite clear, in a way that obtained ever after: he was in the hearing-room
    > facing the probers, we were outside in the hall and the streets with the cops;
    > he was the Old Left proudly unbroken, we were the New being born. Our proper
    > hero in that chamber was instead Doug Wachter, the nineteen-year old student
    > from Berkeley whose summoning -- as a Civil Rights activist putatively tainted
    > by Red background -- had been marked by us all as the clear signal that HUAC's
    > persecutorial energies were turning to focus on our developing movement.
    > If Wachter's own show of resistance to the witch-hunters drew less attention
    > than it merited, this was due not alone to the more fiery temper of Mandel's
    > outburst and consequent selective media attention, but also to its paradoxical
    > character. For though he was of Old Left age and perspective, what burst from
    > him in that moment of outcry -- less as a scholar under ideological assault
    > than as a parent reacting to the treatment of his child, his many children --
    > was a voice that might almost have been mistaken for our own, a New Left voice
    > of moral passion, stripped of ideology. That we honored his speech so was in
    > part due to hearing ourselves in it, I think, in a way that could hardly be
    > equalled in his later interactions with us, nor was approached, so far as I
    > myself saw or heard.
    > Another, less-fleeting dynamic was involved in Mandel's lingering esteem among
    > us. In that era of recovery from savagery and cowardice, we were hungry for
    > elders whom we could respect, and treasured the few faculty like Tom Parkinson
    > and Richard Drinnon who descended to picket and vigil with us. This hunger by
    > itself was enough to elevate Mandel to our small pantheon of elders, and was
    > only assisted by media pushing, or so I reckon. (Among others who spoke
    > vividly under inquisition, Archy Brown had been quite as entertaining -- but
    > he had about him the feel of a worn hack, unlike Mandel, whose rhetoric,
    > though artful, came from the heart; and was burdened moreover by being an
    > official Red, whereas Mandel was merely tainted by association, a status we
    > felt emboldened by then to appreciate openly.) Though I don't mention this
    > hunger as such below, I've written elsewhere of how strongly it was evoked
    > during the FSM, in a psychic substratum affecting our reception then of Mandel
    > as well as of some others.
    > In this way, Mandel -- or at least his media version, which I'll call MMandel
    > -- came to be enshrined in proud memory of our movement's public birth, not
    > only for those active then but for succeeding activists up to the FSM, insofar
    > as they were attentive to the history they were extending, through the tales
    > veterans told and such means as Horowitz's first book, Student. My impression
    > is that this pantheonic MMandel endured unchanged until the FSM, and in some
    > essential regards long after, even to this day, unaffected by the further
    > career of Mandel himself, or by the abrasive rubbing of the person on the
    > image that some besides myself have perceived. (Its endurance for me was
    > probably deepened by my work in the Bay Area Student Committee for Abolition
    > of HUAC during 1960/61 [61/62?], for we prized the MMandel emblem and played a
    > role in propagating it perhaps second only to KPFA.)
    > Though Mandel's commentary on Soviet affairs was audible weekly on KPFA, and
    > particularly pertinent during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, I myself
    > cannot recall his active presence in any gathering more formal or larger than
    > a party, from HUAC till the FSM. This can hardly be taken as an adequate
    > assessment, since I was reclusive and peripheral as an activist for much of
    > this period. Still, as the Civil Rights mainstream was far from his turf and
    > active in the street, I'd not be surprised to learn that Mandel had nearly as
    > little direct interaction with it as I witnessed. But in any case, I suppose I
    > was more representative of FSM activists in general than were those who had
    > more direct interaction with him during this time. If I can be taken so, we
    > saw him at the FSM's start in three kinds of closeness and distance -- as the
    > historical MMandel; as the working journalist Mandel, dependably opening a
    > cousin world to our community's eyes (or ears); and as fond-pappa Mandel, for
    > his son Dave was well-known in the activist community -- all in ways nearly
    > unaffected by direct interaction.
    >                                         ******
    > With this background, I consider Mandel's role in the FSM -- simply as I
    > recall it, for as Jo Freeman observes, there is virtually no documentary
    > evidence from that era to stimulate or correct anyone's recollection of his role.
    > I don't recall whether he spoke from atop the cop-car, at a rally, or only in
    > ExCom meetings. In whichever venue(s), he was surely identified briefly as
    > MMandel, with his status in this regard freshly publicized among a wider
    > audience; and his contribution amounted principally to a symbolic blessing
    > from our forbears in dissent -- not only the Old Left generation, but the
    > older generation of the New, for he was equally an emblem of our HUAC protests.
    > Though I don't recall exactly how or when Mandel was enrolled formally in
    > ExCom, I do recall a distinct impression of his personal pushiness in getting
    > there -- for he was as eager as I would have been in his place to be affirmed
    > so among the admirable young, if doubtless more forward in expressing this.
    > Though this aggressive edge somewhat put me off, it seemed at the time merely
    > an ordinary display of a certain type, quite understandable; and seemed (and
    > was) in context well tolerable, as that excited company had so many vivid
    > speakers that Mandel simply richened its carnival. Such reserve as I felt was
    > quite overruled by my pleasure in having him there, which was shared by many
    > (probably most strongly in my cohort) on similar grounds.
    > For as I saw and felt it, his main role was symbolic, and hardly trivial in
    > this, or in being peripheral rather than central. Though attendant issues were
    > surely debated, on balance we were grateful and proud to incorporate MMandel
    > as a bivalent emblem of our heritage -- less perhaps for the emblem's overt
    > value, than for what the choice to so incorporate it signified about **us**,
    > to ourselves and the world: that we did have a heritage, that we were proud
    > and unafraid to embrace it, and that our community of democratic action was
    > open and non-discriminatory, combatting ageism before it had even been named.
    > Beyond this, there was the person Mandel, in context nearly the only candidate
    > for the perhaps-necessary post of Wise Elder in our company. Faculty members
    > were excluded from candidacy both by definition of our "student" movement and
    > operationally, for as Young Turks they had their own colleagues to influence;
    > and the sympathetic ACLUish lawyers who functioned in fact among our leaders
    > in clarifying and directing our legalistic approach were barred from such
    > candidacy by their own needs to keep at distance for sake of eventual
    > helpfulness. Given this, the field of other potential candidates was reduced
    > nearly to Hal Draper, who was more directly qualified by having indeed served
    > as Wise Elder in a conclave of independent Socialists, whose members
    > functioned importantly in local Civil Rights activism in ways leading to their
    > important roles in the FSM.
    > In this way, reinforced by the continual operation of the ISC during the
    > conflict, Draper served indirectly yet substantively as a Wise Elder within
    > the FSM orbit. He might well have been placed on ExCom, more legitimately than
    > Mandel, as he figured actively in an organization in the (apparent) coalition.
    > That he was not, reflected  not only his comparative modesty about his innate
    > fitness for the Wise Elder post, but his own concern (as well as ours) for the
    > disadvantages of having an elder "Red" agitator identified formally with our
    > movement -- for in this regard he was significantly more problemmatic than
    > Mandel. The political infighting of the FSM itself may also have played a part
    > in this, more strongly than I recall; for Draper was so identified with a
    > particular faction presently, whereas Mandel had hardly any such
    > identification, let alone one current. But I imagine the strongest reason for
    > Draper's formal absence lay in his own committment to producing his excellent
    > political history of the FSM. In its Preface, he emphasizes how peripheral and
    > distant from the FSM's operations he was; and in being forced to argue that
    > even this little was not "inconsistent with the demands of objectivity"
    > reveals some of the forces bearing on his decision to carry through this
    > important role. (During the FSM itself, his most visible role was as author of
    > the pamphlet The Mind of Clark Kerr, which confirmed him usefully as a Wise
    > Elder in a way transcending all factional distinctions.)
    > (Ralph Gleason -- the S.F. Chronicle "jazz columnist," our most prominent
    > public explicator/defender -- functioned also as a Wise Elder of sorts in the
    > FSM's operation, in a completely informal and personal fashion exercised
    > mainly in his living-room, where Mario and I and others on Steering Committee
    > repaired at times to consider the mediated public front.)
    > This left Mandel as the only active candidate for Wise Elder. As I would
    > argue, the post's filling was at least desireable psychically, if not fully
    > necessary. It was also intrinsically contested, for we were so determinedly
    > autonomous as youth and so full of ourselves as to be automatically somewhat
    > resistant to advice from elders of any sort; and tended moreover to be
    > resentful of those who presumed to advise us. Given this conflict, the post of
    > W.E. among us was necessarily titular rather than functional; and in serving
    > so, Mandel's role was essentially symbolic, as was MMandel's. In the
    > circumstance, the most that could be granted was to hear him as an equal in
    > discussion and debate -- which was no more than his better instincts hungered
    > for, nor than any other merited in our democratic company.
    > In this way, Mandel came to play on ExCom, besides his symbolic roles, some
    > actual role in the operation of the FSM. In this regard, his contribution was
    > surely more substantive than the zero summed in the records Jo Freeman has
    > surveyed, though probably not much more significant. Though I'm certain that I
    > heard him speak in more than one ExCom deliberation, I can't recall any
    > particular occasion or contribution, or unique pertinence or distemper. I
    > expect that his contributions were as I recall them generally, and as I have
    > viewed them generally ever since, after editing out the parts concerned with
    > his self-promotion and my irritation at this -- which is to say, that they
    > were pertinent, thoughtful, and well-perspectived, if not God's Word. I am
    > virtually certain that if they had been of less substantive or more
    > objectionable character, I would have noted and remembered this. I'm sure also
    > that his tendency to claim speakers' time was strongly regulated there not
    > only by the presence of so many equally-entitled competitors, but by
    > collective discouragement of excessive contribution by one who remained, in
    > vital regards, an outside visitor rather than one of us.
    > In this regard, I wonder about the details of his way of arriving on ExCom;
    > for I had recalled only that we had decided to place him there, with some
    > glee. As Freeman says that he qualified as an alternate from some
    > organization, I suppose that my memory refers only to our discussion of
    > whether and why we should incorporate the anomality of his elderhood and
    > notoriety -- discussion of a sort that would have attended no other
    > representative chosen by an organization of the "coalition." I put the term in
    > quotes because the FSM by then had metamorphosed significantly from a
    > conventional coalition, in ways I'm pondering separately. As I'd recalled
    > Mandel's election to ExCom, it was among the facts demonstrating this change
    > -- and it remains so, even with Freeman's elaboration. For though Mandel was
    > apparently accredited as some organization's representative, my impression is
    > that this was an operational subterfuge to enable his placement on ExCom; and
    > certainly ExCom's explicit decision to accept him as such was in effect a
    > direct act of recruitment. Such recruitment extended to others who could not
    > be said fairly to represent particular constituencies -- including myself and
    > Lynne Hollander, for though we were given seats on ExCom nominally as
    > representatives of the large workforce that produced the "repression report,"
    > our brief ad-hoc band had already fulfilled its purpose and disbanded. No more
    > than I could Mandel have been said truly to represent a student group; instead
    > we each were selected directly by this body for its own purposes.
    > (I'd appreciate any further information about **which** organization Mandel
    > represented, and how he came to do so.)
    > Though Mandel's role in the FSM was essentially symbolic, and in this
    > represented more its heritage than the FSM itself, the formal status of his
    > ExCom position gave him as much ground as any of a hundred others there, and
    > hundreds beyond, to declare himself a veteran of the FSM, as he has actively
    > since then. Due to the circumstances I've sketched, he came to be nearly the
    > only one of his generation ostensibly qualified to do so -- although a wider
    > understanding of the movement will recognize many other elder veterans, from
    > the Young Turks on up. In social terms, this fact endowed him with a certain
    > capital -- inferior to the post-HUAC capital of MMandel that it supplemented,
    > but still considerable -- which he exploited subsequently in his own style, in
    > commemorative proceedings concerned with the FSM as well as elsewhere; but
    > that's a story beyond the strict bounds of this memoir.\
    >             Michael Rossman <>
    >  .

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