Text of Selected Articles about the Free Speech Movement

Miami Herald

'Free Speech' Leader Looks At Campus Protest
By Martha Ingle

Marilyn Noble looks about as militant as the Quaker she is. Yet she s pen t three months as coordinating secretary for the Free Speech Movement on the University of California campus at Berkeley.

Marilyn quit and came to South Florida for a rest after she was hospitalized with physical and mental exhaustion.

Why did the 26-year-Old former teacher stop work on her master's thesis and devote her full energies to the movement which threw the campus of 27,000 students into turmmoil?

A graduate of Pamona College, the native Californian had spent two years gathering material for the thesis -- on student protest movements.

The fact is, she was not a student at Berkeley. She was registered a t Sacramento State College, but she was
working under the direction of a professor at Berkeley and was living nearby for convenience.

SHE WAS on campus last fall when the movement crystallized. Students had been ordered not to solicit funds or recruit volunteers for off-campus political activities.

"Civil rights groups felt the ban was aimed at them because of pressure from conservative businessmen in the area. CORE had been signing up pickets for demonstrations against employment practices. But even Goldwater supporters joined the protest because the ban affected them, too," Marilyn said.

"When I heard what the issues were, I offered to help. I'd had experience organizing volunteers for groups as a social worker. That's how I got involved.

In the weeks that followed, the board of regents relented to allow political activity on campus, but declared that students would be disciplined by the university for off-campus violations of the law.

The Free Speech Movement contended this put the university in the position of deciding what is legal and
what is illegal.

So the conflict see-sawed. Some 800 students were arrested for a sit-in the administration building, the FSM staged a general strike, the chancellor resigned. And in the latest episode, the president of the nine-campus state university system and the new chancellor offered theirĀ· resignations to the board of regents but later
rescinded them .

MARILYN KNOWS that public opinion polls have shown the vast majority of Californians disapprove of the activities of the FSM.

She herself questions the taste of the incident in which students demanded the right to use obscenity as part of the freedom speech. It made headlines after she came here in January.

"I don't mind admitting I've become a little paranoid," Marilyn said. "I'm inclined now to suspect any authority. During the negotiations, we found we could have little faith in what we were told by the administration."

Marilyn is working here as a live-in maid for a family with three children. She plans to return to California in the fall to begin work on a doctoral degree for which she hopes to teach again.

She's frequently asked: "Can Berkeley happen here?" She usually answers: "No, not in the same way. The geography had much to do with it. The San Francisco Bay area is extremely active politically. In this atmosphere, idealistic students were faced with a real, live problem. There were many ingredients which brought it about including the zeal for civil rights."

She's also asked: "What about the charges that there were subversive elements involved?" She answers: "Personally I'm a registered Republican. I know there are some radical socialists in the movement, but I'm not aware of anyone who's dedicated to the communist doctrine."

Marilyn predicts that the movement is not over yet.

"I thought it was licked in December. The FSM officially disbanded but it was reconstituted in March. After the student body voted that graduate students should have a voice in campus government, the board of regents nullified the election. Now everybody is upset."

The Nation
May 30, 1994

The Kids Were Alright
WHEN THE OLD LEFT WAS YOUNG: Student Radicals and America's First Mass Student Movement, 1929-1941.
By Robert Cohen. Oxford University.
432pp. $55.

When the U.S. student movement of the 1960s erupted few knew that there had been an earlier upsurge of campus radicalism in the 1930s. Robert Cohen effectively refutes the nostalgia for the supposedly placid and benign campus life before radicalism "spoiled everything." All-but-forgotten and totally apolitical riots over sports events, exam jitters and class rivalries that had nothing to do with Marxist conceptions of class roiled such schools as Harvard, Michigan, Wisconsin and even the City College of New York (C.C.N.Y.), later an epicenter of 1930s political radicalism. "The frenetic campus activity that accompanied big college football rivalries," Cohen writes, "almost defies belief."

The main story of When the Old Left Was Young begins with student radicals organizing around an array of interconnected national, international and campus issues. The spreading economic depression and justified fear of renewed war were in the forefront, but local events often supplied the trigger. For example, in 1931 C.C.N.Y. president Frederick Robinson suppressed and suspended the editors of a student publication that called for the abolition of R.O.T.C. A citywide protest resulted in the founding of the National Student League (N.S.L.), an organization dedicated to radicalizing the nation's students.

Never more than a minority on campuses, the radicals nevertheless transformed the spirit of collegiate life in the thirties. Faculties played little role in this change, but officials like C.C.N.Y.'s Robinson and Columbia's more distinguished but scarcely less authoritarian Nicholas Murray Butler and the layer of brutish deans and security officers at schools and colleges nationwide inadvertently provoked much of the protest they then tried to repress. Some of these officials did not shrink from thefts, break-ins, the use of spies and the incitement of fraternity rowdies and athletes to violence against radicals. A chilling seventeen-page appendix to When the Old Left Was Young gives a partial list of officials at scores of campuses who informed the F.B.I. about student activists.

Blatant violations of the right to free expression touched off many of the important campus struggles of the decade, as they did in the 1960s: the Columbia University protest strike in response to the suspension of Spectator editor Reed Harris; the battles for free speech and against U.C.L.A. provost Ernest Moore; and the perennial struggles against C.C.N.Y. president Robinson, who invited a delegation of Italian Fascist students to the college. When C.C.N.Y. students demonstrated against these unwelcome guests, Robinson assaulted them with his umbrella. The removal of Robinson as president was one of the main local victories for the campus left in this period.

Many activists in the N.S.L. and in its successor organization, the American Student Union (A.S.U.), came out of the Communist and Socialist youth movements. Both parent bodies were unsympathetic to independent campus radicalism: The Socialist Party preferred sedate study groups; Communists in their "third period" focused on organizing workers and had little interest in middle-class college students. The resulting benign neglect gave rank-and-file student leaders (even those in the Young Communist League) a great deal of ideological and tactical flexibility. In 1939-41, slavishly following the Communist Party's later line, campus Communists did much to destroy the very student movement that they had helped build a few years earlier.

Student activists in the thirties (and afterward) did not confine themselves to campus issues. Within weeks of the formation of the N.S.L. in 1931 the organization dispatched an eighty-student expedition to the Kentucky coal fields to render assistance to striking workers. Dressed respectably, avoiding left-wing rhetoric and romantic posturing, the delegates were nevertheless beaten by vigilantes and police, harassed by coal company officials, taunted with anti-Semitic gibes and threatened with further violence. Even anti-union Kentucky opinion grudgingly acknowledged their bravery and idealism, and The Nation [April 6, 1932] praised their militancy. Like repressive college administrators, the Kentucky officials inadvertently contributed to the cause they denounced.

Local N.S.L. and A.S.U. chapters also fought on their own campuses for racial equality. Dormitory segregation and Jim Crow admissions policies were prevalent at colleges throughout the country, even some that a century earlier had been abolitionist strongholds. Separate black organizations appeared on campuses, not as the result of any break with nonblack allies but, in Cohen's words, "rather [as] a division of labor between white and black student activists." Students won few victories against Jim Crow, but within the movement in the 1930s interracial cooperation and a broad commitment to justice prevailed.

Building on their initial concerns, student radicals by 1933 had launched a nationwide campus peace crusade. Cohen traces the peace activism of the early and mid-thirties to the earlier revulsion against World War I that was part of the childhood experience of most campus activists. Setting the tone for the decade's pacifism was the pledge taken by Oxford University students that they would not "fight for King and country." An Americanized version of this pledge became the basis for demonstrations, petitions and a series of student strikes against war. Communist activists worked together with Socialists and pacifists in the A.S.U. to build an impressive campus peace movement. This distressed adult Communist Party leaders, and predictably provoked college officials to new depths of authoritarian mischief.

But with the growth of fascism and the Popular Front, seeds of discord began to sprout within this peace movement and throughout the whole A.S.U. Cohen describes with evenhanded political savvy the forces that were to bring about the self-destruction of the student movement. He is sharpest in his criticism of the minority doctrinaire Socialists in the A.S.U. who sought to retain a version of pure pacifism in opposition to "collective security." At that time it was the Communists who were the realists. But in the summer of 1939, when the Soviet Union signed its fateful pact with Nazi Germany, the Communists within the A.S.U. flipped to an awkward pacifism. Twenty-two months later, after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the Communists switched back to all-out support for the antifascist war. In the interim the A.S.U. had virtually disappeared, and when a new peace movement emerged in the cold war period it had to contend with the bitter heritage of mistrust.

When the Old Left Was Young reminds us how much promise there was in the student movement of the 1930s. The book deserves study for many reasons, one of which is that it is a good read, even if it is overly detailed in places and sometimes repetitive. And if a viable left is ever reborn, it will have at its disposal this detailed and penetrating study, which not only illuminates the development of campus radicalism in the recent past but also clearly outlines the mistakes that must be avoided in the future.

Marvin Gettleman serves on the editorial board of Science & Society and teaches history at Brooklyn Polytechnic. He is now at work on a book about American Communist education.

Daily Californian

Activism Breathes Its Last Gasp
Julie Wong and Kevin Zwick

When Zaeem Baksh decided to come to UC Berkeley last year, one event shaped his decision.

While attending post-graduate school in New Zealand, Baksh saw the documentary "Berkeley in the Sixties," and was inspired by its message of student activism and empowerment.

"I always looked up to Berkeley," Baksh said. "My ambition was to come to Berkeley because of its tradition of free thinking and antiestablishment."

The university that Baksh discovered, however, was not what he envisioned.

Instead of a campus filled with "the boiling and fire of student activism," Baksh said he found a campus that seemed ignorant of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) and of UC Berkeley's rich activist past.

Berkeley Resident Martin Snapp, who attended Yale University in the '60s, stated in a Berkeley Voice column that when he heard about the mass arrests on Dec. 2, 1964 in Berkeley, he cried, "Oh, no! I went to the wrong school! I want to transfer to Cal."

Snapp wrote that since he couldn't be part of the "greatest adventure of (my) generation," he went out and bought himself a sheepskin jacket, "just like Mario Savio used to wear."