Sunday, September 19, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xv)

My next vivid memory from April 1971 is of how I marked the third anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt on April 23, 1971.

Only three years after the start of the April 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, the anti-war student and anti-racist student uprising was already beginning to seem like part of ancient history by April 1971. Ted Gold, a close friend from Columbia SDS, had now been dead over a year after being killed in the 1970 West Village Townhouse Explosion; and most of the other most active Columbia SDS hard-core activists I had worked with in 1968 who had joined Weatherman were underground, wanted by the FBI or now living in other U.S. cities. Other Columbia SDS activists or 1968 Columbia Student Revolt participants who hadn’t joined Weatherman, by now, seemed to be mostly going to or returning to grad school or some university professional training school (like a law school or a graduate school of journalism)—or now using their Ivy League social networks or upper-middle-class background contacts to obtain Yuppie jobs in the dull 9-to-5 off-campus world or dull teaching and office work jobs in the by-then less culturally repressive academic campus world. And some other Columbia SDS activists or ’68 student uprising participants had just moved out of New York City to the youth ghetto communities in Berkeley, Madison or Cambridge (which the New York Times Magazine had nicknamed “Berkeley East” in 1970) where, glad to have escaped from New York City, they were able to live a hippie-left-liberal or hippie-anarchist, counter-cultural lifestyle more cheaply, surrounded by a greater proportion of hip youth in their 20s who weren’t culturally straight than they would have found if they had remained in the Big Apple.

So in New York City only 3 years after the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt , it already felt, somewhat, that my 1960s Columbia SDS trip and the 1968 Columbia student uprising had just been a dream or some kind of a political fantasy. And, aside from a planned ritualistic semi-annual bus-ride/anti-war mach down to D.C. in late April 1971, Rennie Davis’s planned “Shut-Down the U.S. Government To End The War” by massive non-violent civil disobedience May Day 1971 protests and sporadic Weather Underground actions, New York City seemed pretty politically dead by the Spring of 1971 compared to all the mass protest that was going on politically in 1968. And the Bronx, in particular, seemed totally unaffected by what had happened at Columbia University in April and May of 1968.

April 23, 1968 also seemed somewhat like ancient history for me by April 23, 1971 because I no longer needed to worry about being drafted for the War in Viet Nam as I had to be worried in 1968, now that I had been able to beat the draft in 1970. Yet the worry about being drafted for a war which I regarded as immoral had, three years later, been replaced by the realization that, off-campus, I was likely to be an alienated, economically insecure 9-to-5 working-class wage slave within the politically and sexually repressive work world for the next 40 years, in the absence of radical democratic change in the United States—despite having gone to college and earned a by-now worthless liberal arts BA.

These were some of my thoughts as I noted on a Bronx bus westward towards Van Cortlandt Park and then, after getting off the bus, started to walk North up the hill, past culturally straight Manhattan College and towards the mansion in Riverdale where former Columbia University President Grayson Kirk now lived, on that beautiful spring weekday of April 23, 1971. I had looked up Kirk’s entry in the most recent edition of Who’s Who In America a few days before, for old-time’s sake, and was surprised that, like me, Grayson Kirk also now lived in the Bronx—although his new home was in a neighborhood—Riverdale—that was a bit more exclusive and wealthier than the Belmont neighborhood where I now lived.

Having brought along my cheap cassette tape recorder for my “3rd Anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt hike to former Columbia President Kirk’s Riverdale Mansion” walk, I was able to record some of my thoughts at that time, while I sat on some grass across the street from the grounds of former Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] Trustee Kirk [who was also then still a member of IBM, Mobil and Con Edison’s corporate boards)'s mansion and estate.

Three years after the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, I felt that former IDA Trustee and Columbia President Kirk was both a war criminal, as a result of his actions as a member of the executive committee of the Pentagon’s IDA weapons research think-tank, and one of the people historically responsible for the U.S. power elite’s use of violence, police brutality and repression of New Left student activism to prevent the creation of a democratic society by non-violent means in the United States by the early 1970s. Also, if former Columbia President Kirk had not decided to call in NYC police on two occasions to clear Columbia’s campus of its anti-war and anti-racist students in April and May of 1968 rather than agreeing to meet the demands of Columbia SDS, I felt that it would have been unlikely that 3 years later we would have been stuck in the following U.S. historical situation in 1971: former Columbia SDS Vice-Chairman Ted Gold was dead; many former Columbia SDS student anti-war activists were being hunted by the FBI; the Kent State and Jackson State massacres had happened; and the endless war in Viet Nam still went on.

What also struck me as I gazed at Kirk’s mansion in Riverdale, three years after the Columbia Student Revolt, was how relatively unguarded it was; and how easy it would have been to stage some kind of militant “3rd Anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt” action at former IDA Trustee Kirk’s Riverdale Mansion on April 23, 1971, to protest both the endless war in Viet Nam and the early 1970s political repression of white New Left activists, Black Panther Party members, and the Weather fugitives, as well as to demand an immediate amnesty for all the Weather fugitives.

It was while speaking into my cheap cassette tape recorder outside Kirk’s mansion on April 23, 1971 that I also articulated the fantasy of there eventually being a revolutionary libertarian communist movement in the United States where—instead of forming exclusionary love relationship with just one partner—revolutionary activists in their 20s and 30s would develop egalitarian, non-exploitative, non-possessive, free love relationships, with all the Movement activists with whom they worked and with whom they shared a mutual physical and emotional attraction. But this particular fantasy turned out to be a utopian one, given how most people, even in U.S. anti-war movement circles, had apparently been previously socialized prior to 1971.