Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: I'll come back to particular individual artists who had an influence in the campus, in particular people like Joan Baez; but to take you back to when you started in 1960: what was the atmosphere like on the Berkeley campus?
FRANK: Well I wasn't there in 1960 - I was actually, I was actually attracted to the campus by the film "Operation Abolition"; the end of, in the in the San Francisco Bay area, the fifties ends with the demonstration against H..... H..... is defeated once and for all in San Francisco in 1960. Now and that is as an important beginning mark for the San Francisco new left as any other; it is the crucial mark. McCarthyism had to be defeated, and it was defeated once and for all when the H..... came to San Francisco hopefully to intimidate the left, and in fact was run out of town. now one of the reasons, one of the interesting things is why, why that happened in San Francisco, why did H...... meet its Waterloo in San Francisco, and San Francisco is a is a peculiar place, it has a peculiar history, and it's not an accident that Berkeley, the Berkeley student movement began right across the bay. the special things about San Francisco were, the most important thing was that because of the 1934 longshoreman strike, victorious longshoreman strike, there was in San Francisco, in one of the most important jobs in town, a left radical, to a certain extent communist, union, which was deeply integrated into the San Francisco working class. And so people, ordinary workers, owed a lot to this union, and were loyal to this union, and they knew that their wages and living conditions and working conditions were greatly improved by this union. And so that they was a loyalty to the left which was never destroyed in the fifties in San Francisco, and that created the atmosphere in which H..... could be defeated when they came in 1960. it also created the atmosphere, the support, which was necessary for the student movement to begin on the Berkeley campus. Well I got, I arrived in Berkeley, in the fall of 1962 - I'd been at school in the East, and it was, it was like coming home. I mean it was a wonderful - the atmosphere on the campus was just indescribable to a young man of twenty. the there were all these political movements, germinating - it wasn't big yet, but they were germinating; there was support of the civil rights movement going on; there was a very strong anti-nuclear movement going on, picking up from the folks in England with the CND, following the CND; there was a, there was all this cultural activity going on; there were small bands; there was there were poetry readings; there was a lot of folk music; there was a whole sense of, there was a whole sense of a new things happening, new possibilities; but at the same time, in 1962, say, when I got there, the political, the explicitly political part of that, of the Berkeley campus had not really developed yet. It was, it wasn't anything like a mass movement - it was small groups of people. I was in those small groups of people - by this time I was pretty thoroughly political - I was one of those one of those small groups of people, and often at times I think that like the experience of being in Berkeley from sixty, in '62 and '63, and basically like handing out literature to people who weren't too interested in it; and then and then being there in '64 and '65 when all of a sudden this sort of, us freaks, us political freaks became the most important people on the campus, and there was a mass movement, and you couldn't, you couldn't have enough leaflets - I mean everybody wanted the leaflets, everybody was interested in what you were saying. So we went from these kind of like unimportant part of the scene - nobody interested in really what we had to say - to being like at the center of the heart of the campus. And I often, when I look back at that, I think that that experience sort of changed the rest of my life, or could even think - it didn't exactly ruin my life, but I mean it changed the rest of my life, because I've spent all the rest of my life passing out leaflets to people who weren't too interested in them, hoping that, you know, any year now, there's
INT: What do you think was the relationship between the civil rights movement, and the free speech movement?
INT: What do you think was the relationship between the civil rights movement, and the free speech movement?
FRANK: Well there's a very explicit relationship between the civil rights movement and the free speech movement - I mean it's directly connected: for one thing, many of the leaders of the free speech movement had been in Mississippi December before, which was the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the famous Mississippi Freedom Summer, when people were killed, and which was you know, really quite an experience. Many folk, including Mario S......, the leader of the free speech movement, had been in Mississippi that summer. when people came back there was an active civil rights movement in the their area; and the year before, 1964, there had been demonstrations in, successful demonstrations integrating hotels in San Francisco, which were, had a large number of Berkeley students involved in them in co-ordination in the support of young African/Americans in San Francisco. There had been successful protests in along Cadillac Row, in terms of hiring practices in the, in the automobile retail industry - and there was a growing civil rights movement happening before. In response to that growing civil rights movement, and the support it was getting from Berkeley students, the there was pressure put on the University of California to try to stop the political support that was coming to the civil rights movement from the Berkeley campus. So whereas there had been a long tradition in Berkeley, going back many years, of distributing literature, and giving political speeches, and setting up tables promoting your political groups, right there on the campus grounds, an edict came down at the beginning of the, in the fall of 1974, which said that all of that must stop - that groups could not put up tables on campus, and they could not advocate illegal activity off campus, was the way it was justified. And out of that edict, and arrests - where students were actually arrested for refusing to leave the tables - came the free speech movement. So in many ways, what, the free speech that people were defending was the right to advocate support for the civil rights movement off campus. So it was explicitly tied. It was even more generally culturally tied to the civil rights movement, because white students, white young people, saw what African/American young people were doing in the South, in terms of ending segregation, and white young people wanted to enter the political world also, were inspired by these young black students; and, and so that was like in general, in the way that it was tied to the civil rights movement.
INT: What was it like to be in a situation in the early sixties in America, when you had the First Amendment, but nevertheless you were breaking free of a culture or political .......... What was it like to stick your neck out and protest about civil rights, and also later on about the Vietnam War? Did you feel you were putting yourself at risk?
FRANK: No. you have to remember now, you have to go back and remember that that in the fifties and sixties, up 'til the late, actually up until the early seventies, the economy of this country is still on the rise, and there is a feeling of affluence, and possibility. in my own family, my father as a community college teacher had no problem supporting his wife and children; my mother didn't have to work, on the salary that he made - and which is not possible today, people don't, mother and father both work on that, on, and from somebody who has that kind of position. and this feeling of abundance, especially among white middle-class, or whatever you want to call them, white university students - this feeling of this abundance and possibility, and not really worrying about career, was very prevalent, very wide-spread. So you got busted, it wasn't such a big deal to get busted; well after you got busted the first time it wasn't really such a big deal, and there was not this concern that there is in 1990 about, oh my God, my, I've got to get a job right out of college, I've got all these student loans to pay back, I'm $30,000 in debt, what in the world am I going to do? When I went to Berkeley, the tuition was $78 a semester. It wasn't even called tuition, it was called fees, it was $78 a semester. I put myself through college with a summer job at a racetrack. So there was, there wasn't this fear that you're going to ruin a career, or that you had to get a job right away, or that anything terribly bad was going to happen to you, because you got busted in some civil rights demonstration, or some anti-war demonstration. I just don't, I don't think, once it gets rolling, and there's this like sense of movement, I don't think there was any great fear among young people. There was, the fear in the sixties, the fear is that you're going to get drafted. That's what people were afraid of, that they're going to have to go to Vietnam and fight and die. they're not afraid of - well you know, look at the large numbers of young men who consciously decide to go to gaol, and then the incredible numbers of young men who, who avoided the draft in one way or another, including the President, right? So I don't know, see I don't know if that answers your question, but, but I, you know like maybe in '60/'61/'62 in that period where I was telling you where the political people were still a little bit freaks in the North, maybe it took some, it took some kind of some, I wouldn't say guts, but it took some something, some willingness to be different - some willingness to be different in order to like be involved at that time. But remember, by the mid-sixties, the word "freak" is spelt, now they spelt it a different way: it's spelled "FREEK", and it's a point of badge honor. I mean it's OK to be a freak - I mean can you imagine what it would be to be a freak in the fifties? So but by the mid-sixties it's OK to be a freak, because there is such a sense, a widespread sense in that period, that there's something really wrong about the culture - this especially happens with Vietnam, and what Vietnam reveals about the United States. There's something just fundamentally wrong about the culture - we'd better re-think the whole thing: we'd better re-think native Americans, we, you know, like we better re-think America's relationship to the rest of the world; we better re-think the relationship between the sexes - we better re-, we better re-think the whole thing. So if you better re-think the whole thing, then maybe being a freak is not just such a, such a terrible thing.
FRANK: Reckons most African Americans felt, many African Americans felt like they had been used by the Communist Party and you see that in ... things, you see that in a lot of African American novelists of the time. The Communist Party had a much better relationship with the Mexican and Mexican American community in California than they, than, than was the relationship with the CP with the African Americans and the rest of the Country., they have been very active in, in the California fields among farmer workers. In the 1930's there were many, many, many, Mexican and Mexican American members of the CP,, there was no sense that, I've never seen any literature in, written by Mexicans or Mexican Americans which, which, sort of charges the CP with using them in the same way that there is all that kind of literature in the Eastern relationship with the African American. So the CP despite the Hollywood ten, despite the tremendous repression in Hollywood, the CP in the West Coast remained a legitimate force throughout the fifties and so that the Left tradition lived and the Left tradition sort of wasn't the great, great break between the two generations, that there was in the rest, in the rest of the Country and I think that that's partially responsible, a part of the reason that, that, the new Left, the White new Left really began in the West Coast and began in Berkeley.
INT: Berkeley itself was part of the Cold War, it provided the brains for places like Barts Livermore. Was there a perception at the time on the campus that Berkeley was involved in somehow or other immoral activities in terms of peace movement and such like.
FRANK: Well, there was a whole feeling in the, that came out in the, in the, in the FSM, in the Free Speech Movement, that the campus was fully integrated into sort of the business, the military industrial complex and, that, that as students we didn't want to be processed into that, into that complex. We didn't want to be made part of it, that isn't what we wanted our education to be and so there was a fairly deep sense that the University was part of the problem, that was also when Rampart's magazine did this exposé of the University of Michigan actually University of Michigan, no it was Michigan State Professors actually setting up the strategic hamlet program in Vietnam, that put more emphasis on the University's role in, in, the military industrial complex and there was some, there was some actually some demonstrations in Berkeley but we actually went into Professors' classrooms and tried to say this is part of the war program and actually tried to disrupt the classrooms that were being held by some Engineering Professors and Scientists that got us into quite a bit of trouble, because it was a question of academics for people argued academic freedom and we said people should be free to build strategic hamlets in Vietnam., so yeah, there was a fairly deep sense of the University was complicit, part and parcel of military industrial complex, had a role in the US's, in US imperialism. You know, remember again this is the fifties and the difference between the fifties and the sixties are so great when people start fighting the war in Vietnam. People begin kind of become conscious of it in '62/'63 there's, there's begins to be demonstrations about the war in Vietnam., it was not, considered, how should you put it, it was not, people didn't use the word imperialism. The word American Imperialism was not in the vocabulary., it was, it had been written out of, of the vocabulary in the fifties, it had been written out of political language in the United States. Now of course you could argue that like American Imperialism wasn't as clear in the fifties as it was in, as it was, as it became in the sixties, but that's, I mean there's Guatemala, there's lots of American action in Latin America which is clearly imperialistic, so it was like, one of the effects of the fifties you can't use that word. I remember in '63 when Bob Sheer said let's name it for what it is US Imperialism, that was a real break with the way people talked at the time. Now of course nineties everybody, I mean it is not such a big deal to say the US is a pluralist country.