Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: You alluded when we were talking about Joan Baez to disagreements about method of protest between the acceptance of the use of violence and the total disavowal of violence. Where did you fall.
FRANK: Well I was in the Stop the Draft Week, I mean I was for a riot in front of the induction center so that we could stop so that we could raise the price of waging the war to American society., and that it seemed to me that a sort of this, this ritualized non violent friendliness was easily acceptable to the powers that be and they could just take these celebrates and bust them and then let them loose and everybody's find and it didn't really disrupt in any important ways their plans their war plans., so I felt that tactically it was important to, to reject that kind of demonstration as like to exclusively the only thing that was really available to us., I was a support of the Black Panther Party which was openly for self defense, as a matter of fact it was called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense., but I myself never really fell for the gun celebration and I believe in the right to self defense and I understand that there are certain situations in which if you threaten those with power they'll, they'll do you in unless you're prepared to defend yourself. I understand that., on the other hand I think that that as much as you possibly can you ought to conduct yourself in a non-violent way in any struggle as much as you possibly can. I don't think it's necessarily a deep moral question as it is a tactical and strategic one., you know, it's kind of like you know, in child birth there's blood, you recognize that but you don't celebrate the blood as the essence of the event.
FRANK: Well, tear gas is mostly fun, I mean if you're not, if you're not trapped inside a building, tear gas just improves a demonstration the as a matter of fact in the people's park riot in Berkeley in 1970 the way to understand that event is when the police took out shot guns with buck shot in them and killed one man and blinded another man, that was because they were had been in the previous four or five years unable to control the streets with tear gas and billy clubs., because the tear gas when all that happened in the demonstrations, the earlier demonstrations they threw tear gas well people would pick up the tear gas canisters and throw it back people would run down the streets police couldn't get them. For a policeman to hit you with a billy club he's got to get close enough to you he's got all this too big equipment on there, and you're talking about young people, some people go hit but not that many, so that there was throughout the say starting in like 1965 between 1965 and 1970 in Berkeley the police were no threat to us at all, no threat to us at all, I mean the police couldn't stop anything, all they did was make a demonstration more interesting, bring it more publicity and didn't really stop anything. Now, so in 1970 when they took back people's park they, there was a decision made on the police's part to escalate their tactics because they wanted to take control of the streets back, they had to take control of the streets back because they were going to try to fence off this piece of property and that's why they brought out the shot guns. Shotguns are no fun at all. They are not the least bit fun, and they control the streets just fine. After they had the shot guns all they had to do was go like that and people stopped and went the other direction., so I, I do remember the first time I was maced and that was, that wasn't particularly fun and, and that, but even with the mace the reason that that was so shocking is because it was the first time it was ever used by the police in the United States, it was used in the Oakland induction center and the Oakland induction center riot was the first time it was ever used and so you didn't have any idea of what was happening. The police line, it was very typical for the police lines there and the student line is here and there's sort of you know ritualized back and forth. Well, with going through this ritualized back and forth and this guy takes out this can and sprays it in your face and you're blinded, you know you feel blinded, you are temporarily blinded and you don't know what the hell and of course it never happened before so if you're temporarily blinded you don't know, it doesn't come with the word temporary in front of it, you don't know what the hell's happened. So that was pretty scary., I don't know does that answer your question.
INT: It does. We come to Kent State of course.
FRANK: I don't think that the, I don't think that the, the fun of the riots was a big part of, of the being in the New Left at that time. The real fun, the real deep fun was changing the course of history. Actually reforming the University, actually helping the Civil Rights Movement, actually limiting the war in Vietnam, that's was the deep, the deeply satisfying part of being part of that Movement, not the running in the streets with the cops.
INT: You come to Kent State in 1970, what is the importance of the shooting of the students there and at the Mississippi State College.
FRANK: Yeah, you know Kent State is terribly important it again the shooting of the unarmed students by the National Guard is so horrible that it puts a limit on, on Governmental action., both against the students and, and, and the war in Vietnam, but you know one, it's just at the time and it still Kent State to me was such a revelation of American racism because all of the attention that was put on the four people who four young white people who were killed and yet people had been killed throughout for the last previous years in the South and black people, African American people, and there wasn't the same kind of outrage or shock to the national consciousness, so yeah it was a horrible thing, I mean in any social movement there are people who fall and martyrs you can't, you don't have social movements without martyrs, social significant social movements without martyrs and they were there's some of our martyrs but and there they didn't die in vain, they definitely didn't die in vain, they helped stop that war and yet there was this whole aspect of it that was so important because they were white.
INT: Ronald Reagan of course became State Governor of California in 1966 and was very vocal. What do you recall are his contributions in the debate.
FRANK: Yeah, well we, well we contributed to his victory unfortunately and that goes back to the fact that our movement was too narrowly based so that the fact that we were powerful on a national scale and had enough social weight to accomplish a lot because we weren't we didn't extend ourselves into the rest of society meant that a politician like Ronald Reagan could come to the Governorship and then to the Presidency by baiting us and playing on the fears of people who really didn't know very much about what we were trying to say., and then you know there was a tremendous misrepresentation of what was actually happening at Berkeley by Reagan., I don't, I don't know Reagan is such an incredible figure because of the whole movie actor, I mean it's just there's I don't know, this I don't know whether this is for the TV or not but I mean there's a wonderful book written about Reagan by Mike Rogan in which it's not clear that Reagan really understood the difference between being in a movie and being the President, I mean there's these, there's these times when he actually told as if they were true these incidents that had happened in movies that he'd been in and people would you know quietly on the side afterwards point out that hey you know that came from a movie and it never seemed to get through and so the next seat you'd have another press conference and he would tell the same story about being in this plane and, and, and it came out from a movie you know, and I, I suppose that that has a lot significance in terms of the power of the media and all that kind of stuff, but it just, Reagan's a very hard person to get your brain around.
INT: Coming back to the Cold War.
FRANK: Yeah, back to the Cold War.
INT: Does that, do you see the sixties and what happened in America as significant in perhaps its dilution of the terror of Cold War.
FRANK: Oh, definitely. No, yes without question. Without question., I mean domestically the Cold War limited political choice, narrowed the acceptable, acceptable political dialogue and that was in some sense the purpose of it, I mean that was, that's what people tried to do domestically. With the sixties that discourse and dialogue opens up again and people get to talk about a fuller range of political possibilities including socialism., support opposition to the, opposition to the war in Vietnam provides people a way of considering questions of, of socialism in a way that they absolutely could not consider those questions in the, in the, in the nineteen fifties., now once again with the end of the Cold, with the end of the Cold War the period that we are in now you see with the victory of capitalism and the victory of the West in the Cold War once again you see this narrowing of the acceptable political dialogue because socialism as an alternative has supposedly been defeated and it's kind of interesting because it is good that the Cold War is over but you have to recognized that into, completely independent of what Russian society meant for the Russian people, it's a, it's a, it's a regime that deserved to fall. Completely independent of that the fact that the Cold War existed and that Russia was a counter power to the power of the West, Russia provided a shield for a lot of really good things that happened in the World. Russia, Russian might was a shield for the Cuban revolution, it was a shield which without Russian power the Vietnamese could have never defeated the Americans. The Vietnamese defeated Americans is one of the great events of modern history, small little tiny country gets the most powerful country in the history of the World defending its independence, that's a great historic, wonderful event. That could not have happened without the [shielf] of the Soviet Union, so the Cold War, the two power system that the Cold War was all about independent of what Russian society was like for Russian people was a good thing for other developments around the World as long as they avoided nuclear catastrophe. Without that power you just have the dominant capitalist West and it's hard to see the space for any movement of worldwide movement of opposition to that. It'll happen, it'll develop but it hasn't developed yet, so that's kind of a little irony about the Cold War that it's good that it's over but the protection for things like the Vietnamese people is gone.
INT: We were talking about Joan Baez, you mention her most of the time just referring to her as she which produces a bit of a problem for me in terms of cutting. I wonder if you could just talk about her and start off by saying Joan Baez.
FRANK: OK, alright. Well, Joan Baez is in ... for a couple of reasons in the history of the New Left. Joan Baez first is a bridge to cultural early folk music which was a, to a certain extent a Left cultural survival throughout the nineteen fifties, it was one bridge to a Left past. Joan Baez was a, brought folk music into the nineteen sixties so for that reason she was a very important at the beginning of the new Left and then in the late sixties and seventies she becomes very important within the internal discussion and debate in the in the new Left over the question of violence, so Joan Baez, Joan Baez is one of the primary people who is arguing for a very, very strict and complete non violent struggle.