Thursday, 23 October 2008

Chicago Perspective

By Stewart Albert (published September 6-September 12, 1968)

In Chicago, teargas was a very democratic experience. On the last two nights, it impartially choked throats of Yippies, Women for Peace, TV cameramen, and even some delegates to the Democratic Convention.

The moderate forces tried to lead orderly marches on the sidewalk policed by monitors who must have taken a semester of piggery at some academy. Dick Gregory made an appearance, as did Eugene McCarthy, but it served for nothing.

Richard Daley saw every demonstrator in Chicago as Ho Chi Minh with a reefer in his mouth, out to rape his daughter.

The marches were broken up by teargas, rifle-butts (the National Guard occasionally joining the pigs), and nightsticks. We all went back into the streets, breaking store windows, throwing rocks at cops and tossing garbage.

The action centered around the heavily guarded Hilton Hotel, in which the delegates hoped to avoid any contact with Chicago.

It did not work. The teargas seeped through the airconditioning and even Hubert Humphrey got sick and had to take a bath.

The teargas scenes were grotesque – people running, vomiting, burning, choking and praying for some decency that it all stop.

Chicago was a revolutionary wet-dream come true. One night, a thousand longhairs joined at the picket-line of striking black bus-drivers. On the following night, striking cab-drivers left a picket-line to join the march on the Amphitheatre. The white working-class motorcycle gangs did not do the Oakland Border VDC thing; they were either free neutrals or with us in Lincoln Park.

What happened that week was the prototypical formation of the alliance necessary to bring the man down and keep him down. It all happened without a single leaflet being given to anyone and without a single white missionary getting a factory job.

This wasn’t the way I was told it would happen. The catechism of orthodox American Leninism is to shave off your beard, get a haircut and stop smoking pot. A revolutionary act is to give leaflets to dockworkers.

The Progressive Labor Party, for example, sends its best people into factories and they recruit a couple of new members each year – and we are the dropout freaks doing everything we were not supposed to do, out on the same rock-throwing things as the workers, and not a single Freddy in sight.

We must realize that the fragmentation dumb-dumbs of repression fired at us in Chicago finally explode in the paycheck prisons of nine-to-five average America.

The best way we can push the workers into revolution is not by sharing in their factory slavery, but by creating our own liberated communities in every major city.

We will constantly confront the man in the battle for the street, parks and living space needed for us to humanize in. Occasionally we must interrupt the pigs’ highest ceremonies by dumping a huge pile of shit on their best rug.

We did this in Chicago, and maybe we can follow it up at Richard Nixon’s inauguration. It is nothing like going into the man’s churches on his high holy days barefooted and smelly, to make him fire his Madison Avenue front group and show off his southern sheriff soul to NBC.

It is by our example of rebellion that we will steer the workers into realizing their own dreams. We won’t do it by collapsing before the mediocratic cleanshaven alcoholic conformities and telling the prolies to read this after they have read that.

We found out in Chicago that the military man of imperialism might have at least one clay foot. There were 43 soldiers at Fort Hood who refused to come to Chicago. The National Guard obeyed orders, but they had faces and not pig-snouts. We went up and down the line telling them not to let their officers kick them around and to behave with more humanity than the Russians did in Prague. The reaction was one of embarrassed presence and rationalization. There were few true believers in the crowd.

At first, our own reaction was one of terror and frenzied running. Then a more confident move-just-as-far-back-as-you-have-to walk, and finally the discovery that tear gas canisters could be hurled back and a cop-car taken out of action if enough people surrounded it. A lot of manhood emerged in Chicago, and for that we must be ironically grateful to the Democratic party.

Our revolution is going to be a chaotic, funky mud type of thing, not fitting any Germanic isms of somebody else’s historical necessity. It is being made in the streets right now. On its appearance, you laugh with joy at its absolute originality.

In Chicago, it was a street-tough with a swastika tattooed on his arm, waving an NLF flag and giving skin to a Blackstone Ranger who had just called for the overthrow of the government. It was a Cleveland suit-and-tie sociologist belting out a pig.

It was a bloodied NBC photographer telling us the National Guard was coming and where there were rocks to throw at them. It was bearded OM-ing hippies breaking windows of scabbing buses.

And finally, it was a busload of ten-year-old black children exchanging revolutionary fists and victory signs with me, and the proud look on the face of an on-looking, and then saluting, black woman.

Our revolution is a movable feast. You can sup of it wherever you make your scene. All it takes is the guts to be free.

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