Monday, January 24, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xvii)

Bumping into Earl and then having lunch with Earl reminded me that I had not checked out the scene inside the Richmond College glass tower on St. George Street in Staten Island at all during the 1970-1971 academic year. So one day in late April 1971 I hopped on a D train, and then transferred at 59th Street to the IRT local subway train that took you to the South Ferry station stop. Then I paid my nickel--or by that time it may have been a quarter--to get on the Staten Island ferry. And after the ferry docked at the Staten Island ferry terminal, I walked into the building of the experimental CUNY college on Staten Island for juniors, seniors and mostly ed majors or teachers who were obtaining their needed master's degree in education credits from Richmond College.

After taking the elevator to the floor on which the student cafeteria was located, I immediately spotted a few of my old hippie-left friends from the Richmond College Social Change Commune that I had been a part of there in the Spring of 1969, sitting around one of the cafeteria tables. Dan, a bearded and long-haired Irish-American anti-war rebel leftist, who always wore a Che Guevara-type beret, was there along with others. But by the Spring of 1971, Dan and my other old friends at the cafeteria table had pretty much given up any hope that revolutionary left change was possible in the United States in the 1970s. And they all explained to me that "partying and bull-shit" was pretty much all that the students at Richmond College were now into in 1971. No one was even bothering to pass out any anti-war leaflets to students at Richmond College or to set up any counter-cultural New Left political meetings or campus events with celebrity left speakers in the Spring of 1971, like we all had done in the Spring of 1969, as part of the legendary Richmond College Social Change Commune.

In the Richmond College cafeteria in late April 1971 I also bumped into one of the hip, bearded professors who used to hang out with us in the Ricmond College Social Change Commune's classroom in the the Spring of 1969; and who used to push the white left-liberal middle-class academic left political line that "cultural revolution and anti-consumerism is good" but "New Left-led anti-imperialist political revolution" or "New Left student activism which disrupted the U.S. university system" is "going too far"--without ever revealing that he was being paid over $25,000 a year in 1969 by CUNY when most of his working-class students were still lucky to find jobs that paid over $7,500 a year after they graduated in 1969.

Yet when we noticed each other as I walked by the cafeteria table where he was eating lunch smugly with some less politically radical and more morally smug professors, he said to me: "How are you? You know we miss you around here. It's much duller politically around here now and getting to be like student life was in the 1950s again."

I also noticed an old womanfriend named Helene in the student cafeteria, whom I hadn't seen since we had smoked some hashish alone together in her Staten Island apartment about a year and a half before. She still looked as physically attractive as a Hollywood movie actress like Jane Fonda did in the early 1970s and we smiled and laughed when we said "hello" to each other again. But since we both realized that our philosophical views and current interests were probably still too different for us to be close friends over the long haul, we only chatted briefly with each other before I left the Richmond College glass tower building and headed back to my cheap, slum apartment in the Bronx.

But because I used to write agitational columns for the school newspaper at Richmond College that presented a radical New Left analysis of the current historical situation during the 1968-1969 academic year, I ended up mailing down to the student newspaper a Spring 1971 column in which I criticized the middle-class academic left "professoriat" at Richmond College for discouraging its students from disrupting the U.S. university system around anti-imperialist demands; and criticized--perhaps in too much of a left-sectarian way--the Richmond College academic left professors for being too chained to their jobs to really want to work for or to see a Black Panther Party-led or a revolutionary feminist-led, anti-imperialist Revolution in the United States in the 1970s.

I also verbally put-down--in perhaps too left-sectarian a way-- the students at Richmond College in the Spring of 1971 who were just into "partying and bull-shit" when the Pentagon was still waging its unjust war in Vietnam, Black Panther Party activists were still being assassinated or jailed on trumped-up charges by the Nixon Administration's law enforcement agents, anti-war Weatherfugitives were still being hunted by the FBI, the majority of U.S. working-class people were still being forced to be 9-to-5 wage slaves in skyscraper offices or in factories to obtain the money they needed to pay their rents and mortgages or purchase their food supplies, and the majority of U.S. women were still being treated as second-class citizens within a racist, imperialist, sexist and patriarchal capitalist society in 1971.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xvi)

During the Spring of 1971 I also bumped into Earl one evening, while getting off one of the subway trains at one of the IRT elevated stations in the Bronx. Two years before, Earl had ben the head of Richmond College's African-American student group on Staten Island. Although his politics were less revolutionary than those of the Black Panther Party activists in 1969, Earl was a friendly guy who was militant politically--in terms of just wanting a greater share of the U.S. imperialist and U.S. capitalist pie. In 1969, Earl dressed in a dashiki, but when we bumped into each other on the IRT subway platform two years later Earl was now dressed in a dress shirt, a suit and a tie; and he looked much straighter culturally.

But despite his less hip-looking appearance, Earl was still as friendly as ever. And, with a big smile, he handed me his business card and also invited me to stop by his office in Midtown Manhattan that week, so we could go out to lunch together.

After graduating from Richmond College, Earl had also apparently been able to avoid the draft like me. But, unlike me, Earl had then landed a good-paying job as one of the Bankers Trust personnel managers who interviewed job applicants in the Bankers Trust personnel office. A few days after bumping into Earl, I actually did go into Midtown Manhattan to stop by his office and get together with him for lunch. But although Earl was still very friendly {despite the fact that I was dressed much more casually than all the other people who were waiting to be interviewed by Earl when he returned from lunch), I felt that Bankers Trust was really better able to now offer him the kind of lifestyle he was now seeking in 1971 than the New Left Movement that I had been a part of and still identified with could offer him.

By the Spring of 1971, Earl felt it was impractical and unrealistic to assume that any kind of Black Panther Party-led revolution was going to happen in the United States in the 1970s. And although he recognized that the rich white bankers who controlled Bankers Trust were using him to divert attention from the degree to which Bankers Trust was still an institutionally racist organization, in terms of its employment policies and banking practices, Earl felt he had little choice but to play along with Bankers Trust in order to earn enough money--and obtain enough economic security--to insulate himself from the economic consequences of U.S. racism. And in order to live the middle-class family-oriented lifestyle, in either New York City or in the suburbs, which Earl's poverty-stricken parents had not been able to obtain, and which Earl now wanted. So after we said goodbye to each other in a friendly way, I never did bump into Earl again.