The sixties were turbulent times for America, both domestically and abroad. During the sixties America witnessed the assassination of a president, the assassination of a civil rights leader, a conflict in Vietnam, and a counterculture revolution among the youth. The counterculture would peacefully protest and rally against the government early on, but as the decade progressed, the counterculture would split into various factions. Some of these splinter groups would carry out violent measures to make themselves, and there opinions, known.
While he violent actions were carried out by a strict minority, they attracted much attention from the The purpose of this paper is to establish a connection between the peace movement and the violence perpetrated by the counterculture. I feel that it is important that we find out how a movement that was peaceful in the beginning could end up being so violent. The fact that Americas youth could get caught up in such a frightening and violent situation should be of concern to all of us. The music, and music festivals, of the era are also worthy of consideration.
Did the music contribute to the violence, or was it a just reflection of the turmoil felt during the In order to understand the violent groups and their connection with the counterculture, we first need to understand what the counterculture was. The sixties were full of groups which lived outside of the norm, one of the earlier and most famous groups to form were the hippies. In 1965, Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle labeled these people hippies, as if they were apprentice hipsters. The young insurgents called themselves freaks or heads, and they called heir here and now revolution a counterculture.
The hippies were into living a communal life, a life of peace and tranquility and they were blowing the worlds mind. According to Stern, The dazzling thing about them was that they were so happy. They did not reject the perkiness that suffused the early sixties. They smiled and danced and got high and loved everybody. They wore flowers in their hair and painted their bodies like freaky Easter eggs. Their program for a better world was one where everyone was mellow. The hippies embraced music and drug, especially marijuana and LSD.
The hippies felt that LSD would help free their mind, and they embraced the effects of the drug. Burton Wolf, a contemporary of the hippie scene, wrote, Several times, I saw barefoot hippie girls in a big pile of dog excrement, calmly walk to the curb, and scrape it off like you would from your shoe, I used to worry about things like that before I took LSD, one of them told me. Now my mind has opened, and I see that its all part of life: dirt, feces everything. Feces are groovy. The hippies were peaceful people who were trying to make the world better, this, however, would change.
A large portion of the hippies would be brought into radical groups and unknowingly be turned 1967 marked a change in the way of protesting. After 1967, countercultural activists followed two major paths: the revolutionary magic politics of the Yippies, and the here and now revolution of rural communes. The break from the hippies way of thinking is in part due to the ineffectiveness of their here and now revolution. They were tired of peaceful protests as the means to their end and they were sick of the interminable theorizing of the New Left.
They wanted results. The Yippies (an acronym for the Youth International Party),. . . were conceived by Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner, Dick Gregory, Jerry Rubin and friends on New Years Eve in 1967 to coax, goose, entice and dazzle thousands of freaks to Chicago for the August Democratic Convention, create there a Festival of Life against the Convention of Death, a blending of pot and politics. . . a cross-fertilization of hippie and New Left philosophies. The Yippies were a radical group, a group that wanted to shake up all of the straight people.
Be it the way they looked or the way they spoke, they wanted to challenge the stablishment. Jerry Rubin describes the prototypical Yippie, a street fighting freek, a dropout, who carries a gun at his hip. So ugly that middle class society is frightened by how he looks. A longhaired, bearded, crazy mother*censored*er whose life is theater, every moment creating a new society as he destroys the old. Yippies favorite way to alienate the majority culture was by saying *censored*. Rubin explained the power of profanity by complaining that the establishment has taken all the good words and destroyed them.
Love, how can I say, I love you after hearing Cars love Shell? Fuck is the solution. Its the last word in left in the English language. Amerika cannot destroy it because she dare not use it. Its illegal! Fuck is a dirty word because you have to be naked to do it. Its also fun. At the 68 Democratic Convention, the Yippies put forth a plan, they were egging on Chicago with threats, such as slipping LSD into the cities water supply, setting off smoke bombs in the convention hall, having sex in the parks and on the beaches, releasing greased pigs in the hotels, drugging the food of the delegates, etc..
Most of these threats were hollow, but hey did carry out the smaller actions, such as the smoke and stink bombs, and the spreading of feces on the floors of hotels. The Yippies received the response they wanted, the city delayed, and refused permits to the Yippies and other groups, and Mayor Daley had the entire 12,000 man police force working in twelve hour shifts, five to six thousand National Guardsmen were mobilized and put through special training with simulated longhair rioters. A thousand FBI agents were said to be deployed within the city limits, along with innumerable employees of military intelligence.
Six thousand U. S. Army troops, including units of the crack 101st Airborne, equipped with flamethrowers, bazookas, and bayonets, were stationed in the suburbs. The actions of the Yippies and the response by Mayor Daly and Chicago set the tone for what was to While out on recruiting trips, Dave Dellinger, a member of the editorial board for Liberation magazine, wrote, . . . the two questions I was always asked were: (1) Is there any chance that the police wont create a bloodbath? (2) Are you sure that Tom and Rennie dont want one?
Tom Hayden, the founder of the SDS, wanted exactly that, a bloodbath. David Horowitz explains why, One of the conspirators, Jerry Rubin, admitted a decade later that the organizers had lured activists to Chicago hoping to create the riot that eventually took place. This fit with the general strategy Hayden had laid out in private discussions with me. When people’s heads are cracked by police, he said more than once, it “radicalizes them. ” The trick was to maneuver the idealistic and unsuspecting into situations that would achieve this result.
The move worked, After the convention, tens of thousands of applications for membership oured into the ramshackle building on the West Side of Chicago that served as national SDS headquarters. With a dozen activist in 1962, the SDS grew to over 8000 members at its The SDS, or Students for a Democratic Society, also became very active at this point. They were a leftist student organization, an offshoot of the Student League for Industrial Democracy. The SLID was a socialist organization that dated back to 1905, after dying out in the fifties, it was reconstituted in 1959 and then renamed the SDS in 1960.
The SDS of the early sixties were using civil disobedience, sit-ins for civil rights, demonstrations at the nations capital hat questioned military spending. As the sixties wore on the SDS began entertaining ideas of violence and became infatuated with the Black Panthers. Both the SDS and the Panther felt a connection with the third world revolutionary movements that were against American While the SDS deteriorated, the most militant and destructive movement of the counterculture emerged, the Weatherman, which later became the Weather Underground.
Roszak laments that while he is against such groups, the counterculture stands for letting people make their own decisions, and take their own actions, no matter how muddled or ill-conceived hey may be. The New Left by what they stood for could not turn away militant members. While the Weather Underground was known for causing general chaos, ie. fighting, disrupting businesses, breaking windows and the such, they were better known for their terrorist actions.
Between September 1969 and May 1970, the Weather Underground could be linked to at least 250 major bombing attempts, and according to government figures the number could be as many as six times as great. On August 24, 1970, the Weather Underground planted a bomb in the armys mathematic lab at the University of Wisconsin. The bomb ended up killing a graduate tudent who was working late. Roszak feels that the tendency towards violence was not due to the counterculture, but instead due to the extremist Black Powerites, he felt that the factions of the counterculture were romanticizing the black militants guerrilla warfare.
The Panthers were supported by white radicals, and their motto was By any means necessary, this included riots, fights, and murder. They modeled themselves after the Green Berets, their bylaws were strict and required that all Panthers be well educated in the ever changing political structure under which they live and be fair and polite to their fellow black an. Big Bob, a Squad member in the Black Panthers, confided to a former Panther that in the three years he had been in Oakland, the Squad had killed a dozen people.
Bobby Seale, former leader of the Black Panthers, had close ties with Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman as well as the other leaders of the left. They were all tried together during the Chicago Seven Trial after the Chicago riots. It was this connection that saved Seales life when he disappeared; his friends The music of the era, along with the music festivals played a heavy part in the shaping of he counterculture. The Monterey International Pop Festival, held in 1967 was one of the first major music festivals held, it marked an end of top 40 music and the beginnings of underground acid rock.
Monterey along with Woodstock, which followed two years later, created a mythical society, as Abbie Hoffman would call it, a Woodstock nation. The Woodstock nation was a state of mind, an anarchy realizing itself in the act of anarchic rebellion. Shortly after Woodstock, Hoffmans dream was badly wounded if not destroyed by the Rolling Stones and the Hells Angels at Altamont. The Stones had hired the Hells Angels as security for the show, and from the start the vibes were bad. Gitlin recalls that the majority of the crowd was on acid and having bad trips.
This along with the Angels fighting and shoving anyone who got to close to them or the stage caused a riot to break out during the Stones set. During the riot, a black man was stabbed and killed, all because the Angels took offense to him being there with a white girl. In response to the Altamont disaster, Jefferson Airplane released Somebody to Love, a plea to the people to bring back the love and peace. Jerry Hopkins tells of Jim Morrison, of The Doors, inciting riots during their shows. In Chicago, Morrison wanted to conduct an experiment with the crowd, he wanted to see if he could invoke them to riot.
The Doors performed all of their violent music at the show, playing songs such as Unknown Soldier, The End, Five to One and others. Morrisons experiment was a success, he had caused a riot in Chicago. In the lyrics to Five to One, released in 1968, the message of rebellion is clear, Five to one, baby/ One in five/ No one here/ gets out alive/ Now You get yours baby/ I’ll get mine/ Gonna make it, baby/ If we try. The old get old and the young get stronger/ May take a week and it may take longer/ They got the guns but / We got the numbers/ Gonna win/ Yeah, we’re takin’ over/Come on.
This song demonstrates the idea behind the youth movement, it clearly states that while the establishment has the power to oppress the youth, the youth have the sheer numbers to overcome. Morrison also uses this song in The Doors infamous Miami concert of 1969, where Morrison is arrested for inciting a riot among other things. The Doors Box Set has a recording of this performance where Morrison egged the crowd on, he mixes statements like this ith in the already militant song, Your all a bunch of slaves! Youre a bunch of *censored*in idiots! Letting people tell you what to do!
What are you gonna do about it?! What are you gonna do about it?! What are you gonna do about it?!. Morrison is calling for the people to rebel, he wants them to become violent in their ways, and that is just what they did. While most music was a social commentary, a few songs were inciting. It is these few inciting songs that the radicals in the New Left adopt as their themes. As Roszak stated, the violent radical groups, no matter how much you were against them, ere still a part of the counterculture. They may not be representative, but they must be included.
I would like to continue my study of this fascinating era by going through transcripts of speeches given by the leaders of the counterculture movement and reading articles written about them at the time. I am searching for diaries of members of the counterculture, so I may take a look into what they were thinking and feeling at the time. I also plan to meet with some of the musicians of the time, and interview them in regards of how they feel their music effected the outh movement and whether or not they had regrets over what their music did or did not do.
I have not yet been able to find interviews with Abbie Hoffman or Jerry Rubin as I had hoped, but I plan to continue searching for them. I would also like to read more into the history of the militant groups, such as The Black Panthers and the Weather Underground. My father went to high school with a member of the Weather Underground who was involved in some of the bombings that took place, I intend on locating her and interviewing her to find out what kind of influences caused them to become violent.