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San Francisco in the Sixties

Kenneth Rexroth’s complete columns and articles from the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967),
the San Francisco Bay Guardian (1967-1972), and San Francisco Magazine (1967-1975)



San Francisco Bay Guardian


Proposals for UC Santa Barbara
Kent State
Lessons of History?
Soledad Brother
Women’s Liberation




Proposals for UC Santa Barbara

(SF Bay Guardian Editor: Rexroth teaches at UC Santa Barbara. This piece was published May 25, 1969, in an off-campus paper called “Probe” — 10 months before the Isla Vista outbreak.)

The University of California, Santa Barbara, should have been limited in size to its population of five years ago. Its growth should certainly be stopped now.

Students, junior faculty and the enlightened members of the administration must be free from the veto powers of people who came here to take their doctor’s degrees years ago and said, “What a nice place to retire” and proceeded to do so.

There is not a single demand of concerned students or faculty that cannot be met, most of them right now. What are they? All you have to do is circulate around and ask. These are not my ideas, but put together they form a definite emergency program which, once implemented in its totality, would make it possible to commence, to begin, to start moving toward a human, humane, humanistic, humanitarian educational environment and interpersonal relations:

Stop the Vietnam War immediately, and totally, and withdraw from the country as fast as possible. If it’s necessary, mobilize all the world’s passenger ships and reactivate the WWII old cans still lying at anchor in the bays on both coasts. The airlines do something like that every year for the pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s no problem.

Legalize grass. Even the square squares who say it’s harmful have to admit that it’s far less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes. Once the convivial weed that practically everybody under 40 uses now is made socially harmless by being decriminalized, then we can start by individual group action to stamp out the killers — speed and smack — and purge the Mafia from the community. Of course everybody knows grass is illegal for no other reason than that the government can’t tax it, and the Mafia can’t control it.

Stop immediately all military research on all campuses.

Provide the Pill to all who ask for it from the University Health Service.

Reduce the enrollment by 5% a year for four years. (Let them build other small universities elsewhere — Avila, for instance, is an ideal site.)

Allow only service automobile traffic on the campus and in Isla Vista. Demolish the parking lots and plant them again with trees and grass. Put sufficient parking buildings on the landward side of the Slough, where otherwise an industrial slum is bound to grow up. Provide free public transportation from the parking buildings to IV and CUBS, and free bicycles. The cheapest and best way to do this would be with a four-lane, four-speed belt. They move iron ore that way for over a hundred miles in Queensland and Brazil.

Condemn and demolish Isla Vista, and build a Cité Universitaire with the best possible architects and landscapists, a publicly owned and operated renewal plan of beautiful buildings, good dining halls and restaurants, with theaters, coffee shops, bookshops and plenty of spaces for recreation, all set in the midst of wide lawns and plenty of trees, with a maximum landscaping use of the beaches and the view out to the sea and the islands. Why not turn the whole thing over to Ian McHarg and Louis Kahn?

Break up the school into colleges, not by professions, or departments, but with salubrious lounges and dining halls in which people with the widest variety of interests can mingle on a fraternal basis as they do, or did, in the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, or in an ideal Greek letter house. For those that want them there should be a Malcolm X College, and a Zapata College. Oriental students do not seem to desire such, but if they do, they should be provided.

Create a department of Ethnic Studies for Whites — WASP Remedial Education — to teach the upper-middle-class social illiterates from the high schools of Southern California’s suburbia how to get along with other Americans.

Permit nude bathing on the beaches and in the pools, and move toward the introduction of nude physical education. Build more open recreational pools — one for each college.

Establish appointment review and, separately, curriculum review, councils in each department which will include every step on the academic ladder from senior faculty to freshmen. Grant immediately the demands of the junior faculty, T.A.’s, and graduates for effective roles in faculty life where now they are second-class citizens at the best, and indentured servants in the lower echelons at worst.

Stop fussing about the Faculty Club. Everybody should have places like the Faculty Club where folks can relax, read, talk together, and socialize. Stop fussing about Soul Food in the cafeteria. The first thing to get is just Edible Food. Evening meals in the commons of the college should be accompanied with table wines or beer for those who want it. Sure, it’s against the law. Change the law. Practically everything is against the law. It’s really true that there are married people in prisons all over the United States serving long sentences for practicing oral sex with their spouses. Most all laws need to be repealed, so we can start over with social regulations that make sense.

No grades. Make all courses pass-fail.

No actual classes larger than thirty. Mass lectures could be unlimited in size and open to anybody who wishes to come in but they should be divorced completely from the teaching process, a totally different and antagonistic activity. This is the ancient European system and what the word “university” really means.

Abolish the use of the Title of Honor, “doctor.” In America it is the height of bad manners to call anyone but a medical man “doctor.” Nobody calls the other folks “master” or “bachelor.” If a student calls you doctor, tell him to take two aspirin and a hot bath and call you in the morning.

There are tons of government money available for fellowships, travel grants and individual projects, especially for upper-division and M.A. candidate people. They are kept a profound secret because they would drain off those indentured servants titled T.A.’s but called by the more depraved senior faculty, “warm bodies.” And compete with private enterprise travel agencies now representing themselves as “student travel.” Grants and fellowships should not only be widely publicized, they should be urged on students and there should be a well-functioning office of people highly trained —and it sure takes high training — in writing up foundation and government grant applications, which must be in a language resembling the interbreeding of Etruscan and Tlingit.

Midterms should be true “tests” — is the experiment fulfilling the hypothesis? They should be uninhibited raps, evaluations of student-teacher relations and course relevance.

Abolish the quarter system. Even the semester system is absurd. It takes months to even start a class into a subject and to establish the community necessary for the educative relationship to begin. This is certainly true of the graduates of Southern California upper-middle-class slurburbia so desperately in need of remedial education.

No student can begin to learn until he has mastered the meaning of Cohn-Bendit’s slogan that launched the Paris May Days — “When examined, answer with questions.”

Nothing could indicate better the alienation of what the head of the English Department at another university calls the crocodiles in the back bay of tenure, than the Good Gray Doktor at another school who once asked me, “How do you enforce discipline with theories like yours?” “I don’t.” “But who is responsible?” “We all are.” “I can’t understand that. What is the principle behind it?” “I would say, agape.”

I could see his mind running over the index to Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, which he doubtless knew by heart, unable to locate the word between aberrations and annilinctus. “But just how do you do it?” said he. “Like a kind of dedicated, even ecstatic, underground Mass culminating with the kiss of peace and communion.”

During the rest of the brief conversation, I realized that he thought I meant a Black Mass. A man who would believe such a thing or believe anybody could get away with it, or that students would accept it, has spent his entire life at the bottom of an abandoned missile silo.

When I told my students (as an example of utter alienation), one of the girls said, “Well, we might as well be hung for wolves as dogs; I’ll take off my clothes and get up on the table.” Another said, “I’ll make a psychedelic chasuble, ornamented with bats and rattlesnakes.” Another said, “I’ll bring some incense mixed with hash and opium and we can invite all the lost souls embalmed in tenure.” I guess we didn’t feel all that self-sacrificing, because somehow we never got around to it. Too busy writing songs much like Abelard, Aquinas or the Carmina Burana.

[April 17, 1970]



Kent State

At the end of the Second World War, the British poet-novelist-pathologist-physician Alex Comfort said in a letter to me that The Bomb was only a symptom, the superficial eruption of the deep-seated and pervasive American sickness. And, he said further, paraphrasing Voltaire’s remark about the deity, that if the Americans had not invented it, it would have been necessary for God, if there is a God, to have created it for them.

For years I have said that something has gone terribly wrong: Bolshevik and Nazi terror across Europe, the Moscow Trials, the Spanish War and Second War, the extermination of the Jews, Gypsies and Volga Germans — an unassimilable ethnic group in the Crimea and Caucasus, the firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Americans of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps where they certainly would have been exterminated if the U.S. had begun to lose the war. What a record. It is hard to convince people that it is unparalleled in history.

Now the human race has started to devour itself, not in wars between nations or between groups cut off from each other by ethnic, class or caste divisions, but within the normal structure of a properly functioning society. When things are going normally, the old and the young, students on one side and their parents and professors on another, should not be engaged in civil war. Each group is part of the hierarchic structure of a smoothly functioning society, overriding economic, social, even racial antagonisms.

Yet what do we see? What we see is madness. All over the world there is rising up a psychotic hatred of the young, of incredible virulence and violence, so deep seated and far reaching, it can be diagnosed only as a symptom of the death of the species.

There is a theory that the great reptiles died out because they had no mechanism for warming their blood as the marshes chilled around them in the period of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes at the end of the Jurassic, their sperm and egg cells became infertile from the cold.

Contemporary evidence, extrapolated backwards from the behavior of the human species, indicates that the dinosaurs did not die because of chilly balls — they ate their eggs.

The inquiring reporter in Kent State, whose story went out over the wires, discovered that the townspeople approved of the massacre by 90 percent. Most thought the guards should have killed more students; none showed any sympathy or understanding with the students whatever, even if they didn’t approve of killing them. These are their own sons and daughters.

In Santa Barbara, I have met no one except intellectuals who did not believe the shooting at Kent was just the medicine California needs. I point out that the four killed at Kent were almost certainly innocent bystanders, none were militants and only one knew any militants; that Kevin Moran at Santa Barbara was a convinced advocate of nonviolence, leading the group trying to cool the scene.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” the response replied, “What of it? They shouldn’t have been there in the first place. They should have been back in their rooms, studying their lessons. If we shoot a few more of them, maybe these dope-crazy, sex-crazy punks and hippies will learn their lesson.”

The giveaway is the word “kids.” When the graduate students at MIT joined en bloc the recent demonstration there, the New York Times referred to them as “children.” Can’t you see them marching up to receive their Ph.D.’s on tricycles and scooters, carrying sand pails and shovels, rubber dolls and teddy bears?

This is the other side of the Oedipus complex, the Laios complex. Up till now I have always thought that Freud’s idea that sometime in the earliest beginnings of man all the sons killed off all the fathers, thereby permanently injuring the brains of the human race, was just the nutty idea of an eccentric headshrinker who’d been treating too many Viennese rich women and freaky counts. I don’t know. Maybe it did happen as a mass derangement of the species back at the beginnings of human history because it’s sure as hell happening in reverse now.

Certainly the war of the old against the young* demonstrates a psychological, or if you will, an aesthetic, breaking point in human ecology. Society breaks down for subjective reasons all over the world, whatever the social system, long before the supplies of food and other necessities have reached a limit.

Misled by the chaos close to home, we might think the breakdown is most severe where the affluence is greatest, but this is not true. We just don’t notice it unless it gets a lot of publicity because it is involved in the geopolitical struggles of the big powers. China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Congo, Nigeria, mountains of dead are piling up around the world.

True, the first 250 thousand dead in the Indonesian counterrevolution can be laid at the door of the CIA, but the Indonesians didn’t have to take CIA arms, money and expertise. In Cambodia the CIA mercenaries turned on the Vietnamese population (most of whom were anti-North Vietnam, which is why they were in Cambodia) and launched a campaign of small-scale genocide — against their allies. In fact the massacre of the Cambodians of Vietnamese race seems the only effective shooting they have done.

This of course demonstrates that the CIA is run by ignorant fools, but we knew that already. What it further demonstrates is that one of the most peaceable peoples on the earth are capable of a murderous insanity not different than that of the Germans, Russians or Americans.

How are the youth of Western Civilization going to counter the ever-increasing self-genocide of their elders? They aren’t. The old have the big difference — as crooks call their guns — “the difference.” Rocks and Molotov cocktails and Weatherman bombs are powerless against even the most minor components of the most outworn weapons systems at the disposal of the old.

As Curtis LeMay said long ago, we could shave eight feet off of the surface of the island of Cuba and just straighten up one page of our inventory. They could exterminate everybody under 30, or everybody under 80 for that matter, in the U.S. and just empty a few bins in one warehouse. Eventually they will if their power is threatened.

Twenty years ago, I said they’d blow up the solar system and create a nova before they’d lower the price of the Buick. People laughed when I sat down at the piano. They don’t laugh anymore.

Speaking of automobiles, years ago I found the slogan painted on a rock amongst peace symbols and political porn — “DODGE VS. OLDS.”

Ways have got to be found to slip through the interstices of the machine of death. The fly has got to learn to stay alive on a flywheel. Kent State should demonstrate conclusively to anyone who has doubted it up until now that his father and mother will cheerfully murder him, that they have the power and he does not.

We live in a society committed to wholesale death. It cannot be defied and its cannot be confronted. It can only be outwitted. Organizational forms, tactics and techniques must be developed right now to stay alive, to keep out of sight, to destroy the machinery of death.

There is no point in talking about going underground. You’re politically underground already, and you’ll soon be literally underground if you don’t wake up. Never forget the troops at Kent State moved in as orderly and as strictly disciplined a formation as though they had been the highly drilled Hessians of Cornwallis.

Only the tactics of the one hero of the revolution I ever had any use for, Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, will prevail against them. And even those will not prevail unless they are totally nonviolent and totally inapprehensible. You’ve got to figure out things you can’t get busted for doing and then figure out how to keep from being busted anyway.

Only intelligence can win. I haven’t seen much around.

[June 11, 1970]


*The text actually says “the war of the young against the old,” but judging from the context this is almost certainly a typo.



Lessons of History?

Writing about politics and social questions gets to be more and more of a bore. It’s news of the class “DOG BITES MAN!!”

Many years ago, in the heyday of Popular Fronts and United Fronts and Machiavellian Backs, the New Republic ran a questionnaire with statements like “Most men are either fools or rascals.” “Western Civilization is declining.” “There are no honest politicians.” Some 20 of them that you were supposed to mark true or false.

If you marked them true, you were a Fascist. If you marked them false, you were a liberal. Which is worse, the liberals who believed Stalin’s Russia of the Moscow Trials was the freest democracy the world had ever seen, or the 17% interviewed by the Chicago Daily News and Sun-Times survey in Charlotte, North Carolina, who believed that the moon landings were a Hollywood fake?

I wonder if there is such a thing as evidence in politics at all? Thousands of Germans who were given proof that the handless Belgian babies of World War I never existed believe to this day that the films and testimonies of the horrors of the concentration and extermination camps were fakes and lies.

I wonder what an educated member of the American Communist Party really believes about the confessions of the defendants in the Purge Trials? All the world seems to believe Jack Kennedy was a liberal, and a man of peace, even the Russians, even the Chinese at least talk that way, although perhaps they are simply appealing to worldwide sentimentality. Everybody seems to believe it — except Castro. How many loyal Democrats believe Edward Kennedy’s story of his aquatic adventures? How many people believe the Warren Report? How many people believe Garrison?

Meanwhile, a new World Economic Crisis looms on the horizon, provoked by exactly the same policies as brought on 1929. A Third World War draws nigh, for the same general reasons as World War I or II, or for that matter, the Napoleonic Wars, or the Thirty Years War.

Western Civilization dies of the same avoidable or curable diseases that have destroyed all the others. Individual experience is the worst of all teachers, but a nation’s and people’s history is even worse. An appreciable number of the world’s statesmen of the past 2000 years have read Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War. If they were capable of learning anything, most of history since the book was written would never have happened. The same goes for Ibn Khaldoun or Ssu-ma Ch’ien or Gibbon.

San Francisco is going through, step by step, the political and social processes that led to the slow death of Chicago between 1925 and 1935. In fact, the disease is pretty well advanced.

San Francisco, like Chicago, is becoming proud of its crime rates, its drugs, its boy prostitutes, its clip joints, proud of the fact that it is a city in the grip of the Organization.

Herb Caen gets more like Kupcinet every day. I get tired of being a Cassandra and a Jeremiah, but you have no choice if you write about politics. Nobody believed them when they said what was going to happen. Nowadays, nobody believes you when you say what is happening and has happened. Local, national and international political writers and foreign and war correspondents are forced to be mythographers.

If a case-hardened, wise and experienced journalist in one of those categories got up in an auditorium before an educated audience and told them how it really is, the American Civil Liberties Union would holler “Copper!” and have him hauled off the stage by the men in white as a dangerous lunatic, yet it’s the same the whole world over, the same old story.

Maybe I should start writing about culture and general ideas and the wisdom and beauty handed down from the Great Dead. Why should I use my brain to spin out sarcasms about evil fools? Why spend precious words and time in the latter years of life insulting Nixon, Agnew, and Mitchell? Their very existence is an insult to me. A gentleman is above insults, even when the insult is an embodied demonstrations that the human race is a failure.

That old paradox-monger Gilbert Keith Chesterton once said that “news” should be published annually in a not too large yearbook, and the daily papers should be taken up with great ideas and beautiful literature of the present and past.

I think he was right. We’d be so much better off if we learned about human folly a year late. The only trouble is, folly today creates, every minute, the most drastic emergencies. It may be better for your peace of mind, but certainly not for your safety, to know after a year that somebody has a pistol pointing at your head and is about to pull the trigger.

[August 31, 1970]



Soledad Brother

I have just read Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, whose brother Jonathan Peter Jackson staged the shoot-out in the Marin County Courthouse in an attempt to capture hostages for the release of his brother and his comrades at Soledad.

This is certainly one of the best books about prison life ever written and very revelatory. It is illuminating to compare it with Alexander Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist.

Berkman, a white man convicted for attempted assassination of the steel baron Frick, was imprisoned in Western Pennsylvania Penitentiary for 11 years before World War I. It was then one of the most barbarous penal institutions in the country. This savage, benighted penitentiary does not compare with the treatment of a black youth held in California’s enlightened, progressive penological institutions. Anyone who does not believe there is vicious discrimination against black prisoners has only to read this book.

Since they are real letters to his parents, his brother, his lawyers, a couple of girl friends he knew as a boy, and, toward the end, Angela Davis, they tend to play down or pass over the horrors of prison life, but those horrors cannot help leaking through between the lines. His information only drives home the real meaning of the fact that Hitler’s concentration camps (not the extermination camps) were juridically, on paper, governed by the most enlightened principles of penology.

Since 1957, when he was 15 years old, George Jackson has been in the hands of the law. He started out just an ordinary kid who got picked up on a wild trip and confessed to several charges to cop a plea and clear the blotter and “get out in a few weeks.”

All these years in prison, seven and a half of them in solitary, have made of him a mature man of powerful mind with a powerful prose style and a pretty accurate idea of who runs the world and how and why.

He is, considering everything, pretty well balanced. Although he is a disciple of Mao, Che and Fanon, I would seriously doubt, from reading these letters, that he had anything to do with, or even knew of, his brother’s foolhardy attempt to free him. After all these years in the joint, confronting every minute the naked power of the capitalist state, he’s learned, as they say in the joint, to keep his nose clean and not volunteer, to play his cards close to his chest and take no chances.

But he has also learned to be flatly, consistently, irreconcilably defiant, which of course is why, the screw mind being what it is, he doesn’t stand a very good chance of living to ever see freedom.

Chessman, remember, was gassed, not because he was technically a kidnapper; but because he was a writ writer, the sin against the Holy Ghost in the eyes of prison authorities, and Chessman was white. The great pity is that very few black people over 30 will ever read this book or would understand it if they did.

Fed information by “the comrades,” J.B. McNamara, doing life for the bombing of the L.A. Times, and for years head of the Communist Party organization in San Quentin, believed that the CPUSA, the Comintern and Soviet Russia were all they purported to be in their own propaganda. When the news of the great purges and the betrayal of the Spanish Republic and the betrayal of the California agricultural workers began to penetrate the stone and steel barriers of San Quentin, McNamara’s powerful heart, which prison had never damaged, broke. He refused an operation for cancer and died.

I wonder if George Jackson, who seems at least as well balanced as J.B., would believe a revolution can be won in the U.S. by urban guerrilla warfare if he were outside. He quotes Che, but the fact is that Che lost before he could ever get started in Bolivia.

He admires Mao and Castro, but both the Chinese and Cuban revolutions have been blockaded and distorted, the Cuban not least by the Russians, who have insisted the island remain a sugar monoculture for the benefit of the Russian Empire — a monoculture that at the beginning Castro and Che and their associates promised they would do away with as the first order of business of decolonization.

The Panthers have not won. The Weathermen have not won. The Madison, Wisconsin bombings, the Marin Courthouse shoot-out and all other similar acts of revolutionary terrorism have backfired and set the struggle back and driven away thousands of potential allies who outnumber the revolutionary grouplets by a thousand to one.

Power may come out of the mouth of a gun, but the urban revolutionary guerrillas are never going to be able to mobilize a significant amount of armament. It is simply not true that the Vietnam War has demonstrated that guerrilla warfare can bring the American Empire to its knees. Southeast Asia is exactly what the anti-war people say, not a determinatively significant piece on the chessboard of the American Empire. If the U.S. wanted to go to war for real, it could shave 20 feet off the whole Indochinese peninsula in a night and just clean up its inventory.

If and when the American Empire is threatened at home, really threatened with life or death, it has plenty of hardware, biological, chemical and atomic, to take care of such a contingency, and the inhabitants of Harlem or the campus of Berkeley will be just another bunch of gooks.

The present Administration, announcing its intentions through its polysyllabic Greek colonel windbag [Vice President Agnew], is driving the country as fast as it can toward total polarization. Its avowed “control slogan” is “If we have to have a bloodbath, let’s have it now and get it over with.” The Drugstore Cowboy may have told the press that this was just rhetoric, but indeed it was not. It was a highly successful appeal to his constituency.

How are the humane, civilized forces for a decent society going to cope with these blood-soaked Assyrians and Aztecs who rule America?

Go underground. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your nose clean and don’t volunteer. Get rid of the dope and the dope peddlers of the Mafia’s multimillion-dollar chemical counterrevolution.

Study. Organize. Purge the agents provocateurs, the hysterics and the freaks. Stay alive through Armageddon.

[October 26, 1970]



Women’s Liberation

We live in an age of counter-revolution by television. Social protest becomes widely negotiable only when it can be stamped with the face and signature of an hallucination publicitaire. For one person who heard of Mario Savio and Bettina Aptheker in the days of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, 10,000 or more have seen the vicious and silly antics of Jerry Rubin on television.

The taxpayers are saving a lot of money. The police, the industrial insurance companies and the business associations no longer have to hire agents provocateurs. They are secreted by the mass culture as a dying cell secretes an enzyme that destroys it, and they are so much more efficient than the old-time stool pigeon.

If you require proof, look about you. We have come through a decade of colonial revolution and social and moral breakdown in the metropoles. We are now entering it with no efficiently functioning organizations whatsoever. All the organizations of the New Left are in chaos, many of them are dead, and the Old Left has nothing to offer. This is not only true of the Left; the Republicans, the Tories, the Christian Democrats are all in an organizational crisis, and the Democratic Party — well, you live in California — what an ignoble ruin!

During the past year Women’s Liberation, which has been around for a long time, suddenly acquired an Image and became the talk of the town. The Media had discovered some Geraldine Rubins to feed into the tube, and Woman became a Hot Commodity.

What this means is that the struggle for sexual equality was carefully matched with the image of the suffragette in the pigmy brains of the lower echelons of Playboy readers. The amusing thing is that Hugh Hefner or the magazine’s Brain Trust seems to have a saner and more effective idea of what a revolution for sexual equality should be than do the women they interview or the jockstraps who accept the latter as feminists.

The debauching of women’s liberation is of the greatest significance; freedom and equality of women is the measure of the health and even the economic efficiency of a modern, as of a primitive, society. The subjection of women is another term for the primitive accumulation that has characterized most societies since the Neolithic.

This is why, incidentally, women have always been comparatively free in the highest and lowest strata, especially of urban society. The lumpen proletariat and the Beautiful People of the court of Louis XV or Aristotle Onassis are past or are outside the accumulative process. They don’t need to be anal-retentive.

Since a revolutionary struggle is meaningful only insofar as it is building a new society within the womb of the old, the sexual equality in a revolutionary movement is an accurate measure today of just how revolutionary it is.

Therefore, the appalling, masochistic self-subjection of women amongst hippies and Yippies reveals that these people are a sickness of the ruling class, not a new revolutionary class. There is no essential difference except physical filth between the country club, Venice Biennale, horse show, musical beds set, with their uppers to get up and their downers to lie down and their alcohol to turn on and their nicotine to commit suicide, and their sons and daughters playing voluntary poverty.

The economic crisis we are running into is going to be a different thing than the 1929-1939 one. The vulgar economists called that one a crisis of over-production and under-consumption. To this will be added the exhaustion of the economic environment, most especially in the metropoles, and the irreparable destruction of the environment everywhere.

As Republicans go, Herbert Hoover was a man of brains. We are now in the stranglehold of the militantly mindless. We cannot counter our Greek Colonel with Jerry Rubin; they’re like Mike and Ike; ham and eggs.

There is ample evidence that any move toward a sane and healthy society will be overwhelmed with stool pigeons and provocateurs. If the CIA can overthrow Sihanouk, even J. Edgar Hoover can disrupt SDS.

We face a decade that calls for ruthless organization, discipline, stamina and the construction of a movement which will be a genuine counter-culture, an alternative society for people who want to be adults living at their fullest potentials, not for people arrested at pre-adolescence who just don’t want to wash the dishes and who want lots of free Alice B. Toklas candy bars.

One measure of the kind of alternative society that can win over the long reach of history is the genuine equality of man and woman, white and black, united and free.

Remember the word “Comrade”?

[December 23, 1970]


“San Francisco in the Sixties” is an ongoing project of posting all of Kenneth Rexroth’s columns and articles from the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967), the San Francisco Bay Guardian (1967-1972), and San Francisco Magazine (1967-1975). Copyright 1960-1967 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.

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