[sixties-l] Re: FSM credits (Mandel/Rossman)

From: Michael Rossman (mrossman@igc.org)
Date: 10/19/00

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    Dear Bill, 
    	I thank you for recalling so precisely the origin of our mutual
    	As you say, whenever we met before the FSM, I expressed my admiration openly
    to you, for your role in the HUAC affair -- as I did to others, for it was not
    meant to curry favor, and persisted through that decade, enduring even to this
    day through all temptation of revision. Given this, and my respect for the way
    you had since engaged yourself with our developing movement, you may
    understand why I sent you one of my few copies of my first (prose) book --
    published in 1971, rather than 1974 -- and perhaps how I felt, waiting to hear
    how so admired an elder took it. Imagine my surprise then, on opening your letter.
    	"I've been looking at your book. Fuck you . . . ," it began, as you say. I
    wish you would fill in the ellipsis from your files, for as I recall the
    invective ran on at some vivid length before turning to the reason for your
    curse -- in brief, that I had written you out of your rightful place in
    history. If your response blew my mind, as we said then, this was less from
    simple hurt at being scorned than from sheer amazement at how **off** it was,
    how inappropriate even in subject, let alone as attack -- for you had utterly
    mistaken the nature of my work, and were railing at me for failing a task I
    had never pretended to undertake.
    	As its preface said, THE WEDDING WITHIN THE WAR "is a volume of personal
    journalism spanning the decade . . . This is not a history of . . . the
    Movement, but a series of views from its perspective -- windows into time, key
    moments **as they seemed at the time** to one young man growing up through
    them." As noted there, I was scrupulous in not revising my reports to be wiser
    or more informative than they had been, for their blindnesses were equally
    important testament.
    	That the book was not a proper history but a tray of raw slices from my heart
    was as clear then as now. In this context, I note with amusement that though
    it included five pieces related to the FSM, it neglected even to mention most
    of my own role in the cop-car episode; and included not one word about my
    subsequent activities in the FSM, beyond an indirect reference in an epigraph
    to a book review, quoting "my friend Steve Weissman, who was on the FSM
    Steering Committee with me." Indeed, though I wrote often about the FSM
    thereafter, I made no further mention of my own part in print until
    circumstance prompted me in 1998, while editing the online re-publication of a
    report I had edited in 1964, to briefly recall the fact that I had organized
    the team effort that produced it. (The forthcoming anthology by Cohen and
    Zelnik has provoked further recall and reflection, to see print next year.)
    	My disinclination to celebrate personality was so pronounced that Mario
    himself received only two mentions, as brief as heartfelt, in WEDDING's
    account of the FSM. Even so, had I been writing a history as such, of the key
    events I witnessed, I would surely have credited your role in the HUAC episode
    as I have recently online (though perhaps with less appreciation of its media
    dimension.) But my job instead, as editor and plainly stated, was to transmit
    intact the letter written by my younger self to a distant lover after the
    demonstrations. In it, before yielding to forecast of the New Left, I tell her
    in as much detail as vividly as I can what transpired, filling in the day of
    my absence from others' accounts but otherwise sticking to witness. I spend
    four pages of detail describing the day of your defiant testimony, from my
    perspective on the picket line around City Hall. In truth, if I had heard you
    then and had observed others responding, I'm virtually certain that I would
    have mentioned this proudly. Instead, the record suggests that I did not, and
    that your speech played less role in the immediate circumstance and movement
    outside the hearing-room, than within and in subsequent media dramatizations
    of the affair. (It suggests equally that my own esteem and celebration of it
    date from after this letter, and were as much a product of its "mediation" as
    contributing to this.)
    	All that's pertinent about my "erasing [you] from the event" was as clear in
    WEDDING as in summary here. Having testified as best I could,, I was shocked
    to have you curse me with a bitterness that lingers even to this day, as you
    confess proudly, for having "wr[itten you] out of the history of events to
    which [you] had contributed." Your response was so off-base that it clearly
    had nothing to do with me, or even with my book, for there was no sign that
    you had read any of it save to notice your absence -- unless I count your
    observation that "what it is that enables such individuals [as Wm. Mandel] to
    bridge such gaps is of a great deal more importance than a personal anecdote
    to the future movement,"i.e., than all that I had written.
    	Though stung to retort that it was not my job to be your trumpeter, I held my
    tongue in astonishment, and struggled to feel compassion rather than mean pity
    as I tried to grasp what could have moved you to curse me so. I could only see
    then that you were so driven by a need for recognition, that it led you to
    misjudge others' work and scold for imagined slight. But thinking now, I
    realize there may have more to it than this, in a quite personal sense. For it
    seems likely that you had endowed me with particular mission on your behalf,
    in expectation if not out loud, and were the more keenly disappointed when I
    failed you. If so, I imagine this was not only from knowing how I admired you,
    but from some projected sense of me as a historian, quite at odds with the
    actual character of my writings, well-published by then. Nothing less can
    account for the vehemence of your disappointment, or perhaps for its lingering
    character, unless it were more indiscriminate than I imagine. Yet I knew
    nothing about your projections and expectations of me, as we were not
    intimates; and was hardly obliged to fulfill them.
    	Having witnessed your pushiness for personal recognition and honoring in the
    FSM, with some sadness to temper my respect, I was not entirely unprepared for
    your response to my book. But I hardly expected it, and its vehemence and
    personal force were surely a slap in the face, too resounding to shake off
    easily. From then on, I became wary of how you saw me, and wary as well of how
    you saw others and pressed your claims in the public of our political
    community. Though I observed your style of assertion in other venues only
    sporadically, I came to observe it methodically, perforce, when I helped
    organize the anniversary proceedings of the FSM in 1984 and again a decade
    later -- and found it again focussed on me, more publicly than in your letter,
    repeating that message. I forget which time you leaped up after whatever forum
    to cry, "FUCK YOU, MIKE ROSSMAN," and rage on -- I imagine less about the past
    than about how I had cut you out of the public proceedings of its
    commemoration -- in a performance nearly as dramatic as your outburst facing
    HUAC, though sprung from different source and hardly as accurate. If I
    cringed, it was less from assault than from embarrassment for you, for how you
    displayed yourself -- which was painful for me if not to you, for it's no fun
    to see a father stumble.
    	What use to remind you that the panels and speakers for each proceeding were
    chosen by processes as collective as we could hold together? Having only a
    sense of exclusion, pointed at me, you will never believe how I argued the
    case for your inclusion at various junctures in planning each, moved more by
    my sense of your capacities than by irritation at your manners. But I must own
    that my irritation grew during the actual proceedings, as I saw how
    aggressively and omnivorously you moved to claim the microphone after nearly
    every panel, not simply to contribute your relevant wisdoms but to proclaim
    your own importance in conceiving or implementing them -- claiming in sum more
    air-time in each proceeding than any of the 39 and 49 speakers scheduled, save
    perhaps for Mario, Jack, and Jackie. 
    	This so put me off that I might even have said something public about it by
    the time the 1994 affair was winding down. If so, I regret the affront to you,
    while remaining perplexed about how such matters may be dealt with beyond
    futile private remonstrance -- for surely public manners deserve some form of
    public consideration. Absent this, I have been left privately to reconcile my
    feelings and perceptions. Having become in effect allergic to traces of your
    self-promotion, I have often found it difficult to subtract my reactions from
    my continuing appreciation of the meat of your contributions. This has made me
    less than eager to deal with the concentrated dose I anticipate in reading
    your memoirs. But I do try, and shall continue.
    	In tempered respect still,
    	Michael Rossman <mrossman@igc.org>
    >   William M Mandel   wrote:
    >     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

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