18 May 2022

“You can't defeat fascism with flower power.”

The following conversation is excerpted from my forthcoming novel. It takes place on October 31, 1970 in Berkeley. The twelve participants have just returned from a an anti-war rally in San Francisco. It's meant to capture the mood and typical arguments that young leftists had at the time.

“That rally was a bummer, feels like the peace movement is dying.” 

“I wouldn’t go that far, there’s growing opposition to the war among all demographics. Activism is what needs a kick in the ass.”

“It’s time for revolutionary purity. Reforms are well-intended but not a solution. The enemy is imperialism, once it's defeated we’ll have socialism in this country and --"  

“Are you talking about armed revolution?”

“You can't defeat fascism with flower power.”

“Let’s not get into this right now.”

“And why not?”

“This is you against the world, or at least everyone in the room.”

“Did everyone notice the dispute between the gays and the organizers?”

“Yeah they didn’t want to let some cat named Don Burton sing.”

“Is he gay or something?”

“He is and I guess he wasn’t registered to perform or something.”

“Is that why they were chanting something while that Indian dude was speaking?”

“Yeah, I heard that they were gonna keep on unless Don was allowed to sing.”

“There’s still — even within the movement — so much homophobia.”

“I don’t know that what happened today was a case of that, but you’re still right.”

“The Indian guy was good though he —”

“Not to me as a woman he wasn’t. Didn’t you hear that bullshit where he complained about women’s lib? He even told the libbers not to come to Alcatraz and tell their women that they’re oppressed.”

“Yeah, fuck that guy. I mean I’m all for Indian rights and support what they’re doing on Alcatraz but there’s no excuse for —”

“See, this is the problem we can’t keep everyone together on all the issues. We need to support all oppressed people whether women, gay, Indian, Black —”

“Right on. Factionalism is killing us.”

“But don’t you think we need to prioritize? Can we fight on all these fronts at the same time? The war is the main — ”

“No, no, we can’t NOT fight for everyone at the same time that’s what this revolution is all about making — ”

“Is it a revolution, though? It didn’t look like one today. Hell, Nixon still has widespread support, the war continues and there are — ”

“Of course it’s a revolution, it doesn’t happen over night. We have to keep the faith. We’ve got a lot of support and it’s growing. Sure there’s some infighting but basically blacks, Indians, gays, Mexicans, everyone is fighting for equality and justice.”

“Justice is a pipe dream. For God’s sakes they’ve go Angela Davis in jail.”

“So we rally for her. Make sure she gets a proper defense. No rest until she freed. We’ve got to free all political prisoners. Especially Angela.”

“Why especially Angela? ALL political prisoners need to be freed.”

“But Angela is a symbol and so important to the movement.”

“And think of how great a victory it will be when she’s freed.”

“Right on.”

“But when is she going to be freed? Can she get a fair trial?”

“People are eventually going to see that she’s being railroaded.”

“Those people better include the jurors.”

“I liked that there was that South Vietnamese student who spoke.”

“Yeah, I dug what he said about Nixon committing ecocide and genocide.”

“Like the Weathermen say, we’ve got to bring the war home. All this talk is not — ”

“I agree to a certain extent but I don’t think the Weatherman’s idea of violence is sustainable. It’ll just bring the pigs — ”

“Exactly, like the Beatles said, we’ve got to give peace a chance.”

“Some pretty good speeches today. I’m just so bummed that the turnout wasn’t better and there wasn’t more spirit among the people.”

“The turnout bothered me but not as much as the lack of spirit it —”

“The spirit was fine, but people are — ”

“A lot of people are burning out ‘cause the movement is too diffused. Every group has to say something and be represented and the focus gets lost. Do we really need one of every group to have their say about every issue? I mean come on why — ”

“But we do, we do need every different kind of voice heard.”

“Well then why wasn’t there, like today, a Jewish speaker or for that matter an Arab or someone from fucking Mars.”

“Why be silly about it Aaron? We get as many under-represented people as possible speaking, especially those who have suffered from this oppressive society.”

“Yeah but — ”

“You can’t have a revolution without all voices heard, you can’t —”

“I keep hearing everyone talk about the revolution but I just don’t see it. When and where and how is this revolution coming about?”

“It’s building, I mean seriously, Tina, do you think revolution happens in like two years? It takes time to build. People have to stay together and keep fighting.”

“I don’t know, I already see it falling apart.”

“That’s because we’re going about it the wrong way. We spend too much time on reform, we need to get the working class behind this because they don’t even recognize their own oppression. Reforms are just a way of gaining more privilege.”

“I think Cordelia has a point there, too much of the movement is led by privileged white people, we need to get everyone but most especially the workers who don’t even realize how oppressed they are to see the necessity of revolution.”

“Power to the people isn’t just a slogan it should be a way of life. All people need to participate and especially the blacks, and latinos and gays and women and what have you.”

“And the prison movement, the prison system is so fucked up and there like lots of political prisoners, Huey and Angela are examples.”

“I worry about over-doing this shit about prisoners being an oppressed group. I mean a lot of these people are murderers and rapists and people who did some seriously fucked up shit. I’d say that’s like the majority of prisoners.”

“I hear where you’re coming from but the prison system is further brutalizing criminals, it’s making bad people worse and maybe people who were’t all that awful are fucked up by all the shit they have to put up with.”

“Yeah some people for sure belong in jail but there’s a lot of brothers and sisters who were busted for something like selling pot and — ”

“Or they were framed by the pigs.”

“Right and there are like way too many I mean like a disprop — what’s that word?”


“Yeah disproportionate number of negroes —”

“You mean blacks.”

“Right, sorry, black people in prisons.”

“The whole fucking system is racist.”

“It’s run by Gestapo pigs and that’s why we can’t fuck around, we’ve got to fight fire with fire.”

“Fred Hampton pointed out that it makes more sense to fight fire with water.”

“We’ve got to be doing something the whole establishment is racist and chauvinistic. Blacks and women get it the worst."

“I gotta be honest here and don’t judge me too harshly but I’m kinna confused by the whole women’s liberation thing. I mean like sometimes I’m made to feel bad just ‘cause I’m a dude.”

“Well that’s your trip if you feel bad, maybe you’ve got a reason to feel bad. I mean do you treat women like sex objects?”

“No, hell no. I mean when I meet a chick who I’m attracted to I can’t help but think of her in terms of sex, that’s just natural that’s nature.”

“But how do you treat her?”

“I mean I suppose I’m nicer and maybe I flirt.”

“But do you just think about fucking her or do you want to get to know her as a person?” 

“Yeah and do you respect her and her views and opinions like you would a male friend?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s different. I mean I —”

“You’re clearly confused. Maybe you and I should talk later.”

“Cool, cool, thanks. I don’t want to be a chauvinist or anything.”

“You’re open to listening so that’s far out.”

“We need to call out all men on the patriarchal bullshit that is keeping women down.”

“Hey, we’re not all —”

“I’m tired of that argument. Men either open about their bullshit or they pretend to be the exception. “It’s not me,’ they say. All men need to own their shit and realize that —”

“No Tina you can’t lump all men together, that’s not fair. Some men are really powerful allies just like a lot of whites are powerful allies to their Afro-American brothers and sisters.”

“I don’t know, man — ”

“We fight amongst ourselves too much.”

“Yeah it’s a distraction, it keeps us — ”

“It’s a moral imperative that we end the war, that’s the first priority. That’s where our energies should be focused.”

“I think we can focus on more than one thing at a time.”

“We have to.”

“Justice, that’s the key word. Equal justice for all and that includes the people in Vietnam.”

“I dunno it gets really complicated.”

“But it shouldn’t be that’s thing. It should be simple. We oppose the war and fight for equal rights and equal justice for everyone. We stand together.”

“Wish it were that simple.”

“Anyone want to go to a Halloween party? I know of a couple.”

“Are they costume parties because I don’t have anything.”

“I don’t either.”

“There’s one I was going to that’s at Chuck’s house, anyone else know Chuck?”

“I do. Talk about chauvinists….”

“Really, Chuck, yuck.”

“Did you just say ‘Chuck yuck?”

“Still a party at his place might be okay.”

“There’d be too many jocks.”

“Fuck that.”

“Deena and Craig are having a party but I’m pretty sure it’s a costume thing.”

“Yeah that’s the other one I was thinking of.”

“Who are Deena and Craig?”

“Fuck it. Let’s have a party right here. There’s already, what, twelve us. We could probably make some calls and get another dozen.”

“Far out.”

“Hey, the pizza’s here.”

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