B U R E A U   O F   P U B L I C   S E C R E T S


San Francisco in the Sixties

Kenneth Rexroth’s complete columns and articles from the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967),
the San Francisco Bay Guardian (1967-1972), and San Francisco Magazine (1967-1975)



San Francisco Magazine


The Junta Coup in Greece
General Breakdown
Destruction for Profit
Humanity at the End of Its Tether
America the Sick
San Francisco’s Rose-Colored Glasses
The May Revolt in France
Community versus Alienation
Reorganize the Police
The Chicago Convention
On the Eve of the Election




The Junta Coup in Greece

Recently I was conversing with some of the leaders of the Greek-American community. These people were by no manner of means of the political Left. They were wealthy, cultivated members of the American Establishment or of that world of international Greeks who are above all else good Europeans. The conversation naturally was taken up mostly with the present junta. Some of these people were as well informed and had as many pipelines into the councils of the mighty as it was possible for anybody to have. No one could account for American policy.

When I was in Greece early this year I was told by one of the leaders of his profession, and a long-time highly trusted conservative politician, that the CIA was going about Greece offering a million dollars in a Swiss account to anyone who would lead a coup d’état and a proportionate amount of money to each of his junta. No one, said my informant, would pick up the money, not even the men who had collaborated with the Nazis. The coup d’état will come, he said, because if you are persistent enough and have enough money you will eventually find somebody to accept the bribe, but you will know that it is purely a CIA operation because everybody in the junta will be a total political, military, social, even religious, nonentity. By the time I got to Teheran these words had all come true.

Still, nobody, however well informed, can understand it. The officers tried for membership in a mythical revolutionary organization were the very men who led the armies of the monarchy against the EAM-ELAS, the Popular Front, against whom Churchill declared war and invoked American aid in the great Cold War speech in 1946 in Fulton, Missouri. These men were paid by the Americans and in many instances trained in this country. The elder Papandreou, who would have been overwhelmingly elected in free elections, and who already possessed a popular mandate, has been portrayed as a kind of crypto-Communist or at best a willing Kerensky. Yet he has always been under attack by even mildly liberal Greek politicians as a right winger and when in office has always been an obedient spokesman for Great Britain, the United States and the Monarchy. His son has been presented by most of the American press as an extreme Red, to the left of Mao and Fidel. It just so happens that he is well known in the Bay Area and his political opinions are about those of Hubert Humphrey before that flabby individual was swallowed whole by LBJ. The vast majority of people now in prison in Greece are not as radical in their opinions as Adlai Stevenson, Archibald MacLeish, or Marion Anderson, and many of them are the exact Greek parallels of those three Americans. The junta does not represent the Right; it represents absolutely nothing in Greece. These nonentities are political zeros, holes, behind which can be seen nothing but dollars and pistols.

Why has the Johnson Administration done this? There was not the slightest chance of a Communist or even a Popular Front takeover in Greece, not even the possibility of a Democratic Socialist government coming to power. In fact it has been obvious since the EAM-ELAS Civil War that the Russians had no intention of building up the Greek Communists and were quite content to see them exterminated. A liberal Democratic Greek government would have been a powerful bastion of American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Why was it prevented from taking office and why is all rational political life in Greece being suppressed by unbridled terror? Even geopolitically Greece is remarkably secure, with dissident Communist states to the north who refuse to take orders from Moscow, Italy, the 51st state to the west, and Turkey, the most belligerent member of NATO to the east. Greece is certainly no domino. By putting in office the present brutal dictatorship, the Americans have destroyed all their allies, the Greek professional, technical and middle classes and all the intellectuals. This loss of the middle classes has resulted in the intense radicalization of the working class. Is there a large Communist cell directed from Peking in the top structure of the CIA? I doubt it. The Chinese are certainly saving money and getting their work done free.

In such an irrational situation only irrational explanations make any sense. Otherwise well-balanced, well-informed men and women, whether capitalists or journalists, come up with fantastic explanations. There are widespread rumors that Lady Bird was highly invested in Greek business enterprises and has greatly increased her investments since the coup d’état. I’ve never met anyone who had proof of this. Others say that the Greek Syndicate and the Mafia threatened to withdraw their support from the Democratic Party unless they were given the rule of Greece. This just isn’t so. I don’t know Lady Bird, but I do know members of the Greek Syndicate are opposed to the regime. They are professional gamblers and don’t willingly enter a game where the odds against will eventually destroy them.

Due to the inadequate coverage of Greek news by one San Francisco paper, and the enthusiastic support of the junta by the other, people hereabouts are mostly unaware of the degree of wholesale indiscriminate terror loose in Greece. It is part of the revolt of the mindless that is whelming up all over the world with the encouragement of the United States government. Unfortunately it is not in the interest of Moscow, Peking, or Havana to come to the defense of the Greek intellectuals now being persecuted. If the younger Papandreou were in fact Communist, Madison Square Garden would be full of shouting throngs every couple of weeks and there would be continuous picket lines in front of every Greek consulate and embassy in the world. The bitter fact is that nobody’s foreign policy is involved. There is no Narkomindel to mind. Why is there not a committee of Papandreou’s colleagues at the University of California of all the dozens of people who knew him well when he was here?

The daughter of one of Greece’s leading citizens, well known to all sorts of people in the Bay Area and New York, was kidnapped by the junta from the newspaper office where she was working (a paper less radical than the New York Times). Her ransom — the silence of her father. She was returned to him with multiple concussions, the result of having been beaten with padded blackjacks, and was flown to Washington for treatment and hospitalization while her father was forced to remain in the country. Is there a committee at Johns Hopkins or at Mills College to protest this?

I went through all this in the Thirties. Friends, men and women I admired, artists, writers, poets, architects — every few days the news that another was missing; another was tortured to death; another had been turned into a mindless automaton, confessing to monstrous and impossible crimes; another had been assassinated; another had arrived in America crippled and crazed. I thought all that was over, at least for my lifetime and at least in Europe. Now it has all come back. No objective of American foreign policy, no investment of Greek shipowners or the Greek Syndicate, or Lady Bird Johnson, nothing whatever, is worth the price of that Greek girl’s beaten brain.

[January 1968]



General Breakdown

The other evening at a concert of the Chamber Music Society an old friend asked me why I did not write a “City column” exposing the manifest evil, corruption and folly of the local Establishment and its kept politicians. Why Athens? Why not San Francisco? The answer is obvious. The most serious evils in San Francisco are only reflections in a reducing glass of the spread of the murderous empire of the American military and industrial complex across the world.

Is our education system breaking down because young people reject its values? Our universities and medical schools are dependent on the war machine. Without the money poured into them by the Federal government for programs connected with war they would have to be totally reorganized in curriculum, faculty, administration and financing. Therefore they are being taken over, one after another, by the military-industrial complex — directly. The University of California is now run by a man who is in the most literal sense of the word a war monger. When the papers call him a “scholar” they are debasing the word. His scholarship has been, except for one inconsequential publication, entirely devoted to death. If parents cheerfully entrust the young to a man from the Rand Corporation — the WPA Project of Death And Destruction, and the greatest lethal boondoggle in history — to act in loco parentis, then they shouldn’t complain if their children riot.

Will West Oakland, Hunters Point and the Fillmore be burned down this summer, accompanied by pitched battles between black people and police? Almost certainly. And why? Because the money necessary to correct conditions unparalleled today anywhere in Europe north and west of the Tiber is being spent to kill colored people — not just in Vietnam, but by proxy in dozens of African and Asian countries, and of course in most of Latin America. What in fact has been done since the riots last summer? The funds not to correct, but to ameliorate slightly the conditions responsible have been cut drastically, accompanied by a barrage of spellbinder’s fraud from the White House. Meanwhile, the police and the National Guard have been trained and armed for outright civil war in every major city in America. Instructions have been issued to cordon off the ghettos and let the damn - - - - - burn themselves up.  Incidentally, who sets these fires? Why do the borders of mass arson coincide so coincidentally with the borders of disputed Negro Removal districts desired by the real estate speculators? Just coincidence?

Why are thousands and thousands of the upper middle class, as they enter upon their majority, committing suicide? For that is what the hippie phenomenon represents. Why do all these dropouts from Sweetbriar, Harvard, Vassar, Princeton, born and raised in the most expensive suburbs, show up at the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Center, crawling with three varieties of lice, infected with all three venereal diseases and/or hepatitis, poisoned with drugs and weak with malnutrition? They will tell you why. Because their homes stand for them as outposts of an immense organization devoted to no other purpose than to murder them. If you believe that your parents are part of a conspiracy to kill you and then blow up the planet, what are you supposed to do, drink Coca-Cola and dance to Benny Goodman records, just like dear old mom and dad?

Mom and dad had options, or thought they did; the labor movement — now the largest and richest Pro-War Anti-Negro organization in the land; or the Communist Party — now orthodox Communists are only tiny squeaking echoes of the Russian Foreign Office, and the Russian policy is “divide and rule” (divide up the world and rule, share and share alike with the USA).

What about the unorthodox Communists, the Maoists and Fidelistas. They make no bones of the fact they want not peace but the victory of Peking, with or without Hanoi. How about religion? The Pope characterizes pacifism as “cowardly and slothful” — you know, like William Penn, Tolstoy and Gandhi, those sloths and cowards. The Anglican Bishop, styling himself a dove, deplores “extremism,” by which he means any serious challenge to organized murder. Organized religion today speaks as it has spoken in every war. It has just learned to be a little slicker.

The only people who make sense today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Black Muslims. Behind their highly colored symbolism, they state only the obvious. We are living in the midst of the Apocalypse. There is not a single major problem confronting humanity which can be solved by anything resembling present methods anywhere in the world. There is not the slightest indication that men will make any drastic changes in the bankrupt methods to which they cling. There is every indication that, this being the case, the human race will not survive this century.

Meanwhile, in the midst of an immensely profitable war, the economic system of the United States, dragging with it all the Western world, sinks deeper and deeper into a state of permanent crisis. Meanwhile, the utterly discredited President knows that he can never be re-elected unless he has first either made peace or declared a major war. All he has ever been interested in is politics-as-usual. He has even tried to manipulate the Pope as though he was an Italian ward politician in the slums of San Antonio. What is he most likely to do? Of course, when push comes to shove, there is always Dr. Teller’s Doomsday machine over there in Livermore, and we can take the planet with us when we go.

[February 1968]



Destruction for Profit

Every Sunday I walk home from Mass through Buena Vista Park. Every Sunday it is a little more ill kempt and neglected. I cross on the lower paths, and in good weather the hippies are coming out of their sleeping bags to see if they can see their shadows. The early ones are up already and breakfasting on candy bars and packaged cakes and other Mezzrobiotic food or they are playing guitars, making love or meditating. Up at the top, just below the parking place, is the City’s most congested cruising ground for homosexuals. Once in a while a “skunk car,” a black and white police car, prowls the paths and the fuzz glare at the deliquents and the delinquents smile back. I have no objection to love children or flower children of any and all sexes. I do think the citizenry should know why this beautiful park, strategically located in an area that certainly needs it, is so badly cared for by the authorities, or rather, not cared for at all.

Some years ago the Zellerbach Commission recommended that several of the City’s parks be sold off to real estate developers, in obedience to what the Bolsheviks call the “control slogan” of the Hearst interests: “Get it on the tax rate.” Since then every one of these parks has been deliberately neglected and allowed to become a neighborhood hazard rather than a badly needed asset. Worst of all of course is McLaren Park, a marvelous tract with an unlimited potential, right in the heart of the City’s problem area. The manifest evils of San Francisco’s urban deterioration cannot be understood until you realize that for generations the Board of Supervisors has been, in part or whole, a private club of real estate speculators which initiates into its curious folkways every new member, except for the most recalcitrant. This is true of most other politicians down the years as well.

Forty years ago immense tracts of the County of San Francisco had been left to the people by the old-time power elite, the Sutros and Spreckels and others. It would have been possible to develop the City into an ideally beautiful planned metropolis of sheltered, tree-shaded residential sections, interspersed with parks, lagoons, playgrounds, as bosky as West Berlin. Like West Berlin, fifty percent of the City was still green on the map in 1928. What has happened instead is the systematic, planned destruction of our urban assets by vulgar and ignorant greed, under the leadership of the very people who consider themselves the cultural elite, and who are under the impression that what they are doing to our museums, symphony, opera, and repertory theaters is “supporting” them. The multimillionaire cultural commissars of San Francisco support culture, in the words of Lenin (speaking of the British Reds’ support of the British Labour Party), “as a rope supports a hanged man.”

A couple of years ago another special commission, hired by the same highly cultivated gentleman I mentioned before, was set up to make a general survey of the cultural needs of the City, under the chairmanship of our highly cultured mayor. The two men who were imported as experts happened to be friends of mine. I was on the committee. Let me assure you, it was a complete fraud. It was designed for no other purpose than to give expert backing to the edifice complex the power elite want built at the taxpayers’ expense in and around the present Opera House. When the experts did not come up with any very enthusiastic endorsement of that scheme, all the other, vitally needed, suggestions were shelved. Why do these people want all this money thrown away on a cheap imitation of Lincoln Center, Los Angeles’s Culture Complex, or Sydney’s monstrosity? Because they want the taxpayers to pay for their upper-class entertainment? Only partly. The region around the Civic Center is the deadest part of the City, a rundown land of lost souls, where, if a spark could just be found, immense sums of money could be made, but fast, in real estate speculation.

This is the reason for the planned destruction of Golden Gate Park by a freeway which is pretended to be needed to link up the bridges, but which actually is planned to open up to far heavier traffic the underdeveloped central and western parts of the peninsula. The most vociferous and unscrupulous advocates of the Golden Gate Park freeway are a family which still owns one of California’s old-time, outsized ranches, right in the way. Oh, I know, the peninsula freeway to connect with the Golden Gate one has been rejected time and again by the voters. So what? The destroyers of the environment never tire. Furthermore, they can always hire new urbanists, conservationists and ecologists, with all sorts of degrees, to prove that smog is good for you, parks are only used by a minority of the people, freeways relieve congestion, and obliterative logging (with the resultant erosion) is good for redwoods.

You think I am kidding? In the last few years I have received not one, but many, pamphlets on each of these subjects. They total up to a complete ideology of profitable devastation. That is why, of course, I quoted Communist jargon. We are currently witnessing the growth of a kind of socialism of the rich — the planned destruction of public property for profit, accompanied with a specious mimicry of liberal, even radical talk.

[March 1968]



Humanity at the End of Its Tether

Toward the end of his life, H.G. Wells wrote a small book, Mind at the End of Its Tether. Contrary to popular belief, he had always been pessimistic about the future of mankind. His first book, The Time Machine, pictures a world of flower children descended from the ruling class, who live above ground and play all day and night, and human black panthers who live underground, do all the work, and incidentally, eat the flower children. This of course has already come partly true for what was once the creative, growing point of society. But the later book seriously advances the idea that the human race is going insane. Philip Wylie, who some people dismiss as a lower-middle-brow Jeremiah, has just published a book, The Magic Animal, in which he says, substantially, that if we were studying any other animal, the present behavior of mankind would be diagnosed as symptomatic of imminent death of the species. Hans Magnus Enzenberger, West Germany’s most ambitious younger poet, and only recently the darling of the League for Cultural Freedom (the CIA “cultural front”), writes a vitriolic statement for the New York Review of Books, resigning his prestigious job at Wesleyan University and leaving America as a nation of dangerous madmen. Eldridge Cleaver, local Black Panther leader, in his new book warns Black people that they must dissociate themselves from a dangerously insane white race or go down to doom with it. The old guard of the left-liberal press — I.F. Stone’s Weekly, The Minority of One, the last issue of Ralph Ginzburg’s Fact — all say the same thing. If not the whole human race, at least America is patently insane. But these are all intellectuals and therefore, QED, dirty Communists, homosexuals, deviants, dope fiends, and they are just sore because the American Way of Life has soared to new heights of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Prosperity. The Great Red Neck in the White House told us so just last Christmas. He said we were on the brink of achieving the fulfillment of twenty centuries of the dreams of Christianity. Yassuh, that’s what The Man said. He’d ought to know.

On the other hand, the country’s leading headshrinkers say the same thing as the Black Panthers: America is going crazy and destroying itself. Not the least symptom of insanity is the megalomania of such remarks as that, and many others, of the elected and, I suspect, still-majority-supported, Leader of the People.

Certainly the papers are full of stark raving madness. The very day the Riot Committee lays the blame for last summer’s riots at the door of the White Establishment, Dirkson, Senator from race-crazy Illinois, torpedoes what is nothing but a token civil rights bill. Peaceful demonstrators protesting the presence, at a Fairmont Hotel banquet of the Establishment, of a nototious genocidist, are mercilessly clubbed into insensibility by the police, then called Neo-Fascists by the head of the Rice Growers Association. (The same gentleman who proposes to solve the problems of Hunters Point by inviting a movie company to engage in a cheap publicity stunt.) The Police Chief asks for more arms, more men, less “respect for the so-called rights of the individual.” Only at the urging of his PR man does he insert in his report a hasty mention of his now-dissolved Community Relations Division. Remember? He dumped the wise and concerned Lt. Andreotti and replaced him with a good old Bull of the Streets who proposes to solve the Black Revolution by getting them kids into the Little League. Meanwhile the Chief has a dry run for massacre in Haight-Ashbury, and tries out the new techniques of his new weapons systems on the hippies. Again, the head of the Rice Growers Association comes up with “Neo-Fascist punks.” No, no, not for them, for the hippies. You just don’t understand the language of terminal social schizophrenia.

What is breaking down in the human race is community. If each small very local community, for instance, assumed responsibility for as many of its own problems as it could, the breakdown might be slowed. For instance, I live in the Black Ghetto. Within a block in every direction from my corner home are fourteen businesses. Three are owned by Black people. The rest employ whites or Chinese who take the money out of the neighborhood. If each one of these fourteen businesses gave part-time employment to Black adolescents, four square blocks would move a long way towards a peaceful summer. Is this likely to happen? No. Men prefer the war of each against all.

Notice the profound difference between the newspapermen’s and teachers’ strikes. The teachers’ demands were all designed to produce better community service and higher professional standards. What would happen if the Newspaper Guild suddenly decided all over the country to include the ninth Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” in its next bill of strike demands? How often have newspapermen struck to improve their own community responsibility and professional ethics? Do they refuse to write lying editorials about the Greek junta? The pollution of San Francisco’s water supply? The destruction of historical buildings and public parks? Social butchery by freeway? If a newsman did so refuse, would the Guild defend him? Did the Guild defend the two Vietnam correspondents Time magazine repudiated? Why is it that Youth and Blacks, both in total revolt, look on the press and the trade unions as enemies? On the other hand, nothing but absolutely nothing has done so much for student-teacher community as the one-day teachers’ strike. Poly High bridged the age gap and the race gap in one jump. The lesson here should be obvious.

[April 1968]



America the Sick

A professor in a leading school of journalism in the United States once said to me that it would be a good idea to make Swedish a required language for all journalism majors so that they could study Stockholm’s Dagens Nyheter every day and learn what a newspaper could be. It is certainly the world’s best. Its political position is really neither Left nor Right, but conservative in the sense that the Sierra Club is conservative. It speaks to Scandinavia for the conservation of human and humane values. It is the only newspaper I am thoroughly proud to write for. The editor is a good friend of mine and I visit him when I am there, just as he visits me in the States. He is one of the most cultivated and temperate men I know, an extraordinary contrast to the typical semi-literate, vulgar and venal American editors. Alas, these lads are no longer even cynical. The days when the managing editor of the Chicago Herald and Examiner carried an IWW card and stilled his conscience with alcohol are gone. Today, everywhere, the boys believe their own foolish lies, whether it’s the nonsense they write for Pravda or the mirror image they write in the United States.

I always enjoy a visit with my friend on Dagens Nyheter. It’s one of the more civilized moments of the year. This trip he came to dinner a badly shaken man. He had been touring the United States and discovered what I had been saying since I came back a year ago. This is a nation gone mad.

Over on the other side of the Atlantic you read in the papers that this country is falling apart, that a gulf is opening up in the United States like the chasm that separated the upper and lower levels of French society after the genocidal slaughter of the working class in the Paris Commune. But you don’t really believe it’s that bad until you tour America and get your nose rubbed in it. I too have just come back from a swing around the country and have seen close up Harlem, Newark, Chicago, Milwaukee. And I talked with ordinary black working men, the Negro middle class and elite, and with representatives of “law and order,” the uniformed guardians of the public peace.

I discovered that black professors, physicians, writers and nearly all but the most venal politicians had given up hope in even token justice from the white race and its government. Professional men and women descended from educated freemen who had migrated northward to escape the terror of the Southern cities that preceded the Civil War talked exactly like the adolescent boys who’d come north from the cotton fields, dropped out of high school and joined the Panthers or the Muslims. My friend saw cities with blocks of fire-gutted buildings, deserted and boarded-up stores and homes, with police constantly patrolling the streets in bulletproof cars with riot guns and tear gas carapults. I saw the same thing. Parts of Detroit and Newark look like Hué. The black ghettos of the major cities have become what black people have always felt they really were: walled-in occupied towns, patrolled by an enemy army. Outside the walls in Polish Milwaukee or Italian Newark or Polish and Irish Chicago the tide of hate rises like a sea of acid. No wonder the black militants have given up integration and prefer black power for black men in the black ghetto.

Both my friend and I discovered that in the cities torn by fire nothing has been done to better conditions except to appoint commissions whose recommendations, even when fraudulent, have uniformly been shelved or repudiated. As one of the members of the Commission appointed by Johnson said to me, “What the hell does he think I am, a Communist? What does he mean, we didn’t praise him for all he’s done? What we told him was that in terms of what is needed he had done nothing.”

The schism in the soul created by the racism of white America is doubled, or squared rather, by the schism created by the war, and it stretches from the top to the bottom. The young people who refuse to become war criminals have passed over to assault and make it impossible for spokesmen of the administration to speak on most campuses and even to appear on many. International bankers inform the White House that if the war is escalated they will throw the United States government into bankruptcy. Ever since the bomb fell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima this has been a guilt-ridden country. Today many bishops and professors, businessmen and even the CIA-supported intellectuals described with Swiftian satire in Norman Podhoretz’s comic book now say, “I am ashamed to be an American.” The wives of top White House advisors demonstrate against their husbands. The inventor of the Domino Theory is knocked down at diplomatic banquets. Level-headed conservative congressmen said, “If Johnson thinks he will be defeated in the convention, he will bomb China between now and August. If he thinks he will lose the election, he will do it before November.” One of the biggest political bosses in the country tells his intimate friends that he believes that Jim Garrison has evidence of complicity in the assassination that goes all the way to the top.

True or false, all these beliefs and rumors are indicative of national moral and psychological collapse, from the Cabinet to the suicidal speed-head children of the Haight-Ashbury. It’s what seems like a century ago that Jim Baldwin said, “Who wants to be integrated into a burning house?” During Vatican II, one of the leading cardinals said to the Time correspondent, “Young man, if you think the Catholic Church plans to go to hell with the American capitalist system, you are very much mistaken.”

Now more and more people feel that the keys are turning and that the bars are sliding and they are being locked into that burning house. It’s not all draft evaders that are jumping the border; there are seven thousand young citizens of the United States in the city of Toronto alone. And everywhere in Europe and Asia you meet emigrés of all ages and occupations who say they’ll never return to madness.

The United States is now psychologically in the condition of Russia during the Moscow trials or Germany at the time of the von Staremburg Bomb Plot.

Since I started this piece the President has announced that he would not run for reelection and that he would call a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam. But he is still in office and the bombing, as I write, is still going on. Meanwhile, Dr. Martin Luther King has been murdered. European papers speculate that it is all part of one plot: the murders of President Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Dr. King. So too say many black people. They are right. A secret society of assassins may not be driving for power in the United States — but it amounts to the same thing. The country is in the grip of mass psychosis of which assassination and mass murder are only symptoms. The plot is the sickness of the American people. Is it incurable and fatal? Probably so. The murder of Dr. King has probably foreclosed all options. The door is locked, the house is on fire, the windows are barred.

[May 1968]



San Francisco’s Rose-Colored Glasses

San Francisco is widely supposed to be the most enlightened and cultured city for its size in North America. May be, but this doesn’t mean much. Hippies may greet the King of Norway crying “Welcome to the Free City,” the rich intelligentsia on Russian Hill and Pacific Heights may fancy themselves as anti-Establishmentarians, old families may talk of their devoted Chinese houseboys of bygone days, and address their black cooks as “Mrs.,” but it is all a rosy self-delusion. San Francisco is the land of social and political La Vie En Rose — life through rose-colored glasses.

Not only is it the most Establishment-ridden city outside of Charleston and Savannah (usually not accepted as part of the civilized world), it is a veritable system of Chinese boxes of Establishments, telescoping reserve echelons of Power Elites. The Founding Fathers of San Francisco’s Sixty Families may have been bankers, traders and speculators who grew rich off the miners and whores of the Gold Rush, but they were aggressive, inventive, and knew they weren’t very civilized and wanted to do something about it, to civilize themselves and their community as well.

The Junior Set, or Squirt Set, the descendents of the Robber Barons, are simply smug. Their grandparents may have staged rather provincial salons, with specially invited chamber music concerts and Gertrude Atherton and George Sterling in attendance, but at least the players were the Flonzaley, and later, the Budapest String Quartet, and Gertrude and George were the best the City had to offer amongst writers. Even neatly dressed painters might be permitted entrance amongst the sables and minks; Maynard Dixon might be seen rolling cigarettes or Ralph Stackpole waving his hands. And believe me, Ralph Stackpole was inordinately civilized for a member of the Bohemian Club. He and the City’s other civilized man, Leo Eloesser, are both still alive, going on ninety, one in Mexico, one in the Auvergne. No one has since occupied the position they once did.

Dear Dr. Eloesser, who used to operate at four a.m. with your family of dachshunds sitting outside the operating room, patiently waiting, all in a row in the hospital corridor, who wore windsor ties and played the fiddle in the bath: Why can’t people like you grace San Francisco once again?

The next generation? Well, they are pretty well defined by Maestro Krips at one end and the disaster called Spring Opera at the other. Their self-appointed leader had to be restrained from calling the police to arrest the City’s only internationally known writer, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, when he tried to present a petition to the fraudulent culture committee the little leader had financed. He had never heard of Ferlinghetti, incidentally, and was horrified when Jack Shelley asked me to introduce him. All he knew about me, for that matter, was that I was the kept radical, or Judas Goat, for the Hearst paper.

One thing, for sure, these people don’t buy pictures. Once again let me remind you that the Bay Area’s leading painter, with dealers in London, Düsseldorf, New York, even Los Angeles, does not consider it worthwhile to have a San Francisco dealer. What happened? Their parents bought Keith and the painters of the Old West, and their older siblings bought Diego Rivera — in fact, some of the ladies slept with him. Why did San Francisco literature end with George Sterling, music with Ernst Bacon, and painting — God knows when? Smugness, and a kind of cheap, alcoholic, Hemingway in Harry’s Bar sophistication.

Somebody once said of Hemingway that you know his characters must be frightfully brainy because they carefully avoid ever saying anything intelligent. The Junior Establishment talk that way naturally. They would think the conversations in The Sun Also Rises were real highbrow, if they ever read the book, Yet, in a world of ideologies, they have their ideologues. Herb Caen substitutes for Marx, Howard Gossage for Freud, and the teeny Jetters, their children, show their revolt by reading Art Hoppe religiously.

This is the secret. It is difficult to think of anything more obdurate than a public mind shaped by a flashy pseudo-liberalism every morning over grapefruit, one egg and dry toast. Culture may not be all that important. Ferlinghetti may well be most happy that he is more famous in Prague or Sydney than in the city he lives in. Diebenkorn is surely not starving because he can’t sell pictures. But basic social relationships are important.

Black, brown and yellow kids demonstrate at institutes of higher learning and demand the right to further education. If the state and city colleges of California can’t take every graduate from Mission and Poly Highs who wants to continue on to college, then they should be closed, the administrators fired, and reopened only when they can fulfill their responsibilities to the community. That’s what they were set up for in the first place. Right now it is as hard to get into S.F. State as Harvard and is filled up with rich brats from the upper-middle-class suburbs of the entire country — very, very hippie.

The owner-occupied homes of my neighborhood are caught between the blight of the Haight-Ashbury and the Negro Removal Project in Western Addition Number Two. In a few months Western Addition Number Three will be slummified by the splash-out of populations displaced from Number Two, and then Justin Herman will move in on us. Why does Hunters Point still stand? It should have, in terms of the war contracts for temporary housing, been torn down twenty years ago and replaced with decent places to live, financed by Federal funds. Its existence is completely illegal, movie-company publicity swimming pool and all.

The War Department and the Federal highway boss announce they are going after Golden Gate Park with their freeway again. The San Francisco subway system turns out to be a greater defrauding of the taxpayers than the subway operation of the Vare machine in Philadelphia a generation ago, and when a journalist on a rebel paper has the effrontery to point this out, the head of BART, a member of the junior brigade of the Sixty Families, has the effrontery to threaten to sue him. I say flatly that BART should be stopped in its tracks and the whole mess subjected to a searching overhaul by an elected citizens’ committee.

San Francisco could have the most beautiful waterfront in the world if the industrial and port facilities are moved elsewhere. Instead, once again, the oh so civilized representatives of the Power Elite propose to destroy the east face of Telegraph Hill. So it goes. Candlestick Park was a bit of criminal folly, so now we are going to dispossess the poor who live South of Market and build another monster just like it. And towering over the black ghetto, what will there be? A vast and vastly expensive cathedral. I am sure the black children on their way to school will interpret it as a symbol of aggiornamento, and of Pope John’s, and his Master’s, love for the poor and outcast.

[June 1968]



The May Revolt in France

120 years have gone by and we are back where we were in 1848, the year of revolutions. The European empire of espionage, terror, subversion and wholesale bribery of cabinet ministers that had been set up by the Austrians and English with the unwieldy aid of the Russians broke down. As barricades went up in the streets of the capitals of Europe the comfortable classes found the whole thing incomprehensible. They looked back on forty odd years of what they considered peace and prosperity — The Happy Society. The revolutionists were disorganized, naïve, and basically without real leaders. Almost all the leading intellectuals were passionate supporters of the revolutionary movement but largely for personal and melodramatic reasons, although the most astute were aware of the fundamental change in the moral foundations of society that the masses were demanding.

This was a period in which Marx brought to its final definition his theory of human self-alienation. The terms were those of the left-wing followers of Hegel, but he was certainly not alone in diagnosing the fundamental cause of the world ill. Throughout the intervening generations all but a handful of romantic anarchists have assumed that the fundamental problem, the radical divorce of man from his work, men from one another, and man from himself, would be solved indirectly by political and economic change. Today we have, over most of the world, either welfare states or state capitalism — total government control of the means of production and distribution. Human self-alienation has not decreased but increased, everywhere.

So has the incomprehension of the comfortable classes. They say to blacks, “What is it you people want? Give us a program. The Supreme Court has guaranteed that you are just as equal as we are.” To the young, “We gave you everything your heart desired; we sent you to the most expensive schools; your sports car cost twice as much as our Buick. All you ever had to do was ask. Why are you living in this filthy room, sleeping with twenty people on the floor, taking dope and living on popsicles?” They say to the police, “I tried to be a real pal to him; only last week I bought him the most expensive outboard motor. I simply can’t believe my eyes as I see him hanging there.” They are totally, absolutely, utterly and incurably incapable of realizing that they have made life intolerable.

A generation ago the great Jesuit scientist and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin said, “The revolutions of the past hundred years have been for political and economic objectives. The great revolution of the latter part of the twentieth century will be to change the quality and meaning of life.” Thank God he said it. I must have quoted it one hundred times trying to get some inkling of what’s happening into the heads of the straight and square world.

Youth, blacks, the starving inhabitants of the neocolonial world, are alienated by definition. They are not alienated on the job — like a worker on the assembly line whose conditions of life and work turn him into a mindless appetitive automaton, lured on from day to day through a world empty of all human values by the bait of meaningless commodities dangled before him in the idiot box. American college students, the blacks in Hunters Point, the Indians of India or Arizona dying of malnutrition in mud huts, are outside the society and look at it as a whole. What they see is unadulterated moral horror, made doubly evil and terrifying by the fatuous boasts of idiot politicians — The Great Society, The Happy Society, You Never Had It So Good — and by college administrators who are superprogressives and can quote Paul Goodman, A.S. Neill, Signora Montessori, at the flip of a punched card, and militant civil rights advocates who are passionate practitioners of high-toned miscegenation.

Probably the most significant thing about the explosion in France is the revelation of the moral bankruptcy of the establishment. Neither the General nor the leaders of the Communist Party had the faintest idea of what it was all about. De Gaulle had no explanation except the sublimely comic one that it was all due to the Communists. The Communists, with just enough insight to be really scared, indiscriminately denounced the revolt — both of the rank and file leaders of the striking workers and of all the youth — with savage, unbridled abuse. The terms of this slanging match were derived from the political argot of a bygone age. De Gaulle might have been Clemenceau attacking Jaurès. The Communist bureaucrats picked their vocabulary from the records of the Moscow trials.

Most significantly the labor bureaucrats united in striving to behead the movement with “pork chops” — as American labor slang has it, with wages and hours sops. But the French working class are as well off as any in Europe except the Swedes and the West Germans. They did not rise for wages and hours, although they may give up if sufficiently bribed. Every effort was made by the left politicians and trade union bureaucrats to create antagonism between youth, the workers and the peasants who were just beginning to join the revolt. What all these people (“piecard artists” is the old American labor slang) were united in defending was Their Way of Life and it was this the revolt was against.

Whatever the temporary settlement in France, this rejection of the immense, deadly system of false values which has ruled the age of commerce and industry will not stop. The sentiment is shared by the millions within the counterculture all over the world who are under attack from university presidents, ghetto police and CIA-subsidized politico-militarists. Their Way of Life is unbearable and they are passing over to the assault.

[June 1968]

NOTE: For the situationists’ accounts and analysis of the May revolt, see The Beginning of an Era and May 1968 Documents. For a little taste of the spirit of the revolt, see May 1968 Graffiti.



Community versus Alienation

The years, especially the latter years, of the Hitler dictatorship should have taught us all the nature of the business-as-usual mind of almost everybody. Its tolerance is unimaginable. Who was it once said that men survive where angels would die of ecstasy and where pigs would die of disgust? As our civilization tumbles into ruin almost no one really pays attention to what he reads in the papers every morning or sees in the streets every night.

As Huns or Goths swept through the streets of Rome looting and raping, business-as-usual went on around the corner. Constantinople fell twice; first to the Crusaders, then to the Turks. On this we have plenty of documentation from the most personal levels. What happened? People went on trying to turn a bit of profit in the blazing streets. Business-as-usual flourishes in catastrophe.

The evidence is in and is conclusive that civilization dealt itself a mortal blow in the First World War. If the American War Between the States was a civil war, so was the first great European war an internecine struggle that destroyed a community just as it was beginning to form. In other terms, it was a counter-revolution — a war of the Ministries and High Commands and Boards of Directors against the men under arms, at lathes and plows.

Since August 1914 disorder, terror and demoralization have spread through all the body of Western Civilization like a cancer of the blood. The condition of each day differs only very slightly from yesterday. The change can easily be made imperceptible with sympathetic magic and verbal spells cast by politicians. We look back on the interbellum and war years of Fascism, Nazism, the Moscow Trials, the Great Purge, the Spanish War, the extermination of the Jews, Dresden, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, as a time of troubles which we have passed through. As a matter of fact, we have only developed techniques to make the disease less noticeable and at the same time our responses have been dulled. The disease itself is its own palliative. Demoralization and terror vaccinate to the degree that symptoms are suppressed, at least cosmetically. For in the last analysis the disease is depersonalization — anomie.

This is the reason most of the cures proposed are always more of the same. The revolt of the French working class is met by tying them even tighter to the meaningless round of production and consumption of commodities. The race problem in America is solved with magic spells — federal laws which only partially guarantee rights which were already guaranteed in the laws passed following the Civil War.

The crises that are bringing down our civilization are not going to be overcome by the delegation of responsibility because that is precisely what has brought them about. The entire set of all our social action programs should be toward the bringing back to life of personal, individual responsibility within the context of small, interlocking communities.

Take for example the problem of hard-core unemployment in the black ghettos. The federal government and the great corporations have spent all kinds of money and uttered all kinds of publicity and yet quotas have not been met. On the other hand, within one block of the corner where I live in the ghetto are fourteen businesses owned by Caucasians or Chinese, not one of which employs a black person young or old, skilled or unskilled, for permanent or summer work. In these four square blocks there are not fourteen unemployed Negro youths but more like ten or twelve. It would be very easy to organize this little community to solve the problem if the local businessmen only thought of themselves as directly, personally responsible; if they thought of the young men they see every day as persons.

McLaren Park in the heart of San Francisco’s worst problem area is a wasteland and garbage dump. The City’s self-appointed cultural leader paid an expensive commission to tell him that several parks should be sold to the real estate interests for “development.” The Park Commission proposes to destroy the world’s finest outdoor swimming pool. Hunters Point, where there should be a fine park and two or three swimming pools, is still waiting for completion of its first pool — this partly paid for by a Hollywood movie company. The back yards of the worst sections of the ghetto are often heaped with rubbish — fire hazards and rats’ nests. San Francisco back yards are uncongenial at best — long, narrow slots walled off with high board fences which were once great redwood trees.

Here and there about the country neighborhoods have organized themselves as community parks and playgrounds inside each square block simply by tearing down the fences and undertaking cooperative upkeep. Older cities where this has been done — parts of Chelsea in London, Dahlem in West Berlin — are unforgettably beautiful. The interiors of the blocks organize a community of responsibility and peace. It’s true they don’t let the poor and colored in Nottinghill or Spandau do the same as the professional classes in the bosky faubourgs, but there’s nothing preventing the people in a San Francisco block from doing this except themselves.

Here is where tax money should go — to encourage innumerable activities of this sort, and each and every one should be judged by the sole criterion: Does it create a community which in its turn creates responsible, individual persons? This is the way, and the only way, you cure alienation and anomie, whether it is in industries with shop committees, credit unions and cooperatives, or with student representation in schools and colleges.

Why isn’t it done? Primarily because we live in an economy which has come to solve its problems with death.

[August 1968]



Reorganize the Police

The recent uproar about the San Francisco Police Department presented the Mayor with a golden opportunity if he had only had the sense to seize it. It’s perfectly true that Chief Cahill has a great reputation all over the country as an enlightened peace officer — through no fault of his own. He owes it entirely to the wonderful community relations work done by Lieutenant Dante Andreotti. This special service was set up largely due to the urging of the San Francisco Examiner, probably its most progressive idea in recent years. To the chief and most of the top brass it was never considered anything but a PR circus and a lightning rod, but to Lieutenant Andreotti it was the real thing. He struggled to make it that, and then to keep it that, against the most appalling slander and sabotage, all very clandestine, from the old-line hard-boiled bulls of the woods, of whom there are still plenty in San Francisco. Even in Berkeley, where every patrolman is reputed to have a Ph.D., there are plenty of them still, but so much more so in San Francisco, home to the South of Market Boys. Lieutenant Andreotti was let go reputably because he flunked his oral exam for promotion to captain and resigned to take a better job in Washington than Chief Cahill’s here.

I propose that we set rolling a recall Andreotti movement to bring him back to the City and make him chief of police. As to the vacancy on the Police Commission, since the principal problem is the nature of liberty under the law and its relation to public order, why not Ernest Bessig, head of the American Civil Liberties Union? He certainly knows more about the subject as it really is on the beat, in the station houses, behind the bars in the lockups, and in the courts, than anybody else. As for the row over Police Intelligence, the Chinatown detail and all that jive, the whole business is antiquated and should be reorganized by a special commission of the Bay Area’s leading criminologists.

There is certainly no question but what all of our methods of coping not just with crime but with all the problems of interpersonal relations, as they manifest themselves in civic peace or the lack of it, are completely out of date. We have advanced very little beyond London’s first police force, the Bow Street Runners, established by Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones, when he was what we would call a “municipal judge” two hundred years ago. We now have more money and more people in uniform, but little fundamental change in philosophy or methods. There is no point in going into the metaphysics of cause and effect, but the literal fact is that there is scarcely a riot in a city of the United States in the past ten years which did not break out after a conflict with the forces of order.

Somewhere, somehow, some modern metropolis is going to have to break through into a whole new world of civic management of the relations between citizens. If this doesn’t happen, and the present methods are allowed to continue, the present faults can only be intensified. Eventually, and that eventually is not very far off, city life is going to break down altogether.

There are plenty of leading peace officers who are well aware of the gravity of the problem — and Chief Cahill may well be one of them — but there are very few in leading positions anywhere in the world who realize what a wholesale reorganization is needed, both in philosophy and fact. It is certainly easier to start solving the problem in a more homogeneous society than that of American cities. Stuttgart, for instance, is, amongs other things, an automobile town, like Detroit, with a large number of workers imported from the South — Yugoslavia, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Spain — yet it is still quite safe to stroll there on a summer night, in the park, with your girl. It is not safe to do so in Central Park in New York City during the daytime, or any time except Sunday afternoon, when the park is full of people — including gangs of juvenile purse-snatchers. Whatever its faults, Germany today — West or East, for that matter — is a far more successful melting pot than the United States.

Once we had a homogeneous society; once it fell apart in the bloodiest war in history up until that time. It is falling apart again and the divisions are at least as serious as those that caused the Civil War. Some are sectional; others are everywhere. The most amateur philosopher of history can recognize the symptoms of far advanced social breakdown — ultimately, in our modern terminology, ecological breakdown. The overwhelming evidence, practically the total evidence, of history is that such processes are irreversible. Once you have block after block of streets crowded with juvenile male prostitutes, once you have continuous rioting by people with no stake in the society, once you have thousands living and dying on public welfare for three generations, you can’t get back.

Arnold Toynbee’s passionate, many-volumed sermon has managed to convince some people that just possibly the processes of history can be reversed. If this is so, it’s time to start trying. Why not begin with a reorganization of police work?

[September 1968]



The Chicago Convention

There is no historical evidence whatsoever that the processes of social decay are either self-limiting or reversible. Once things get worse they never get better. The cure is as bad as the disease. Rigid authoritarian control can freeze a society into immobility but the sickness is just driven inward to work out of sight in the vitals of the social organism. No civilization has ever climbed back up once it has started down the greased toboggan to the everlasting bonfire. Nations have recovered from the follies of bad rulers and the disasters of chance, but this is a different thing.

Where are we? Are we just suffering from the reign of a Lord of Misrule and the effects of an evil war upon the social conscience? Would that were true. It doesn’t look like it. In the first place, disorder and demoralization have become world wide and have intensified and spread steadily since 1914. It’s not just Western Civilization or capitalism that is affected. A totalitarian regime like China’s, as anti-western as it could possibly be, is just as sick as us. As the former colonial peoples are liberated they turn out to be still sicker.

It is true that the Johnson administration has enormously accelerated the processes of decay throughout the world. The CIA satrapies have only to be listed to reveal the spread of violent immoralism and to contrast the social conditions for which the United States government is responsible with those of comparatively unpoisoned states — Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, almost all of Latin America but most especially Guatemala. It is only necessary to contrast this list with Finland and Pakistan to see where the trouble lies and what the source of infection is. In the days when the Marines were ruling Nicaragua and Haiti, the United States was able to export disorder along with the economic contradictions which caused it. Today the Care Packages of hate, violence and total alienation that the State Department has shipped abroad now go around the world and return unopened to explode in Chicago in the very bowels of the “democratic process.”

There was nothing accidental about what happened in Chicago, it was the necessary consequence of deliberate policy. It is true that the TV commentators and the Kennedy and McCarthy brain trusts have all accused President Johnson of deliberately planning and directing a confrontation of maximum violence. They alleged that he insisted on Chicago because Mayor Daley had guaranteed the use of maximum force to suppress dissent not only on the streets but on the floor of the convention; and that he was in constant communication by telephone with the bosses of the convention and the commanders of the various armed forces; and that there are plenty of TV tapes which show the Secret Service actually directing the Chicago Police. I for one have no doubt whatever that what they say is true. As Franklin Roosevelt used to say, “We planned it that way.”

Nothing shows the personal command of Johnson better than the remarkable fact that it was not the Yippies in Lincoln Park nor the anti-war people in Grant Park who bore the brunt of the attack, but the McCarthy supporters themselves, culminating in the incredible beating and gassing of sleeping young people in the McCarthy Headquarters while the President’s flabby running dog flatly refused to put a stop to it. One of the President’s favorite phrases of courtly old Southern rhetoric, applied to gooks, Negras and kids alike, is “Whup ’em till they come sick and then whup ’em for comin’ sick.” McCarthy’s supporters discovered that, viewed from the fastness of a Texas barony, they were, to speak Johnsonese, “yellow dwarfs with knives.”

The old-time American radicals used to say “the ballot is a paper substitute for the bullet, the bayonet and the billy.” Watching their television sets, all the world saw that in the United States this was only too true. Faced with a choice between two deeply detested men, both of whom speak only for the past and only on orders, what recourse has the electorate? I do not think there is the slightest doubt but what a new party, with Rockefeller for President and McCarthy for Vice President, if it had gotten underway during the week after Chicago, could have walked into the White House. What now? The majority of the electorate, both Republican and Democratic, have been effectually prevented from really voting. They can only protest. You can write in the names of either or both Rockefeller and McCarthy, or you can vote a protest vote for the most outrageous candidate you can pick on the ballot — Eldridge Cleaver or the official Communists (whoever they are) or Allen Ginsberg. This is an election the people are bound to lose. The problem is to figure out some way to make the public wrath felt at the polls. One thing for sure: Johnsonian brutality in Los Angeles and Chicago is only a delicate foretaste of what will happen when the anger of a defrauded people seeks expression on the streets in the coming years.

[October 1968]



On the Eve of the Election

Perhaps it is just as well that the American people, unless they are extreme radicals of the Left or the Right, have been disenfranchised. For years it has been a complaint of old-fashioned conservatives that everybody was coming to rely on the federal government for everything. Whatever the federal government will be in the next four years it will not be reliable, anymore than it will represent any majority of the people. Probably the best we can hope for is that the Eastern establishment will swing in behind Richard Nixon and insist on the formation of a conservative government not unlike the British Conservative Party — which of course is pretty Red by American standards. Even so, it is difficult to see how the country can afford a chance of a heartbeat precipitating the lamentable Spiro Agnew into the throne of the Head of State.

The alternative is appalling. Humbert Humbert has been forced on the Democratic Party by the Texas billionaires, by the Merchants of Death of the Golden Crescent of war industries created by Johnson from Corpus Christi to Florida, and by the big city machines of the North — where “big city machine” really is only the square mask of the Organization. (In return for an open San Francisco and a free hand in North Beach, the Lords of Las Vegas, North Clark Street, Cicero and similar sanctuaries of pleasure supported the campaign for our last mayor. At the time I prophesied that it was only one step from the topless joints of Broadway to City Hall. Well?) The election of Humbert Humbert would turn the country into one vast conglomeration of Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas.

There is a parasitic crustacean which penetrates the breastplate of a crab and slowly saturates the tissue of its host until it has completely replaced it. The United States is now undergoing this process and it is already well advanced. The Organization was once organized crime. It is now becoming simply one factor of organized society and, if present tendencies continue, may well become the State itself.

Of course, what disgusts the average citizen is the shameless duplicity of the major candidates. We have come to a pretty pass when it is obvious to everybody that the most honest contenders for the Presidency are Mr. Wallace, Mr. Gregory and Mr. Cleaver. Did I say most? I meant only. Excuse me, I forgot America’s only indigenous Marxist party, the three-generations-old Socialist Labor Party. I suppose the emergence of George Wallace is the only historically significant factor in this election. For it should be borne in mind by every person that considers himself well informed that George Wallace stands somewhat to the Left and liberal side of the great bulk of his followers. . . . [One or two lines missing] . . . Germany. He will certainly get far more than eight percent of the vote. The pathetic eight percent polled by the National Democrats in West German state elections has not only thrown all the press and pundits of the world into a profound tizzy, and given the Left running and barking fits, but it is the principal factor in the sudden change in Russian foreign policy and is one of the main reasons for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Pravda says so and I don’t see any reason for not believing it. What will they think in the Kremlin if George Wallace gets fifteen percent of the total vote and carries Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana? At the time that I am writing this column the conservative estimate of experienced analysts is twenty percent of the total, and the more rash ones say thirty. If Wallace gets thirty percent of the vote in 1968, he or someone like him will get the White House in 1972 unless the country undergoes a revolutionary moral change — or a revolution. If you don’t believe me, go back and study the German election returns for the last ten years of the Weimar Republic. Never forget, Germany was an incomparably more liberal and more civilized nation than the United States is today.

The only thing that can be done this fall is to start at bedrock to rebuild a humane politics in America. Fraud, duplicity and demagogy must be challenged directly at the point of contact. A good example is the extraordinary proposal to hand over the three San Francisco forts to the real estate operators. It is perfectly obvious to all those not rotten with greed what should be done with them. Fort Mason should be a public park. The entire area from Lake Merced to the sea should be offered to the university system as a site for a new University of California at San Francisco. This should probably include the Olympic Club grounds eventually, for the Olympic Club has been exposed time and again as a racist organization. Similarly, the Harding Park Municipal Golf Course and the San Francisco Golf Club should be added to the grounds of the now badly crowded San Francisco State College so that the entire shore of Lake Merced would be turned into a recreational and educational complex. Forty Miley should be incorporated into Lincoln Park along with the private property from the Cliff House to Lookout Point. Will this happen? Not unless San Francisco undergoes a revolutionary moral change or a revolution.

A revolt against the predatory interests who are manhattanizing San Francisco would be a good beginning for such a change. Let it never be forgotten that Mayor Alioto was hand-picked by Humbert Humbert and his bosses and his Boss to place His Flabbiness in nomination, and that he is thereby exposed as representing the same interests.

[November 1968]


“San Francisco in the Sixties” is an ongoing project of posting all of Kenneth Rexroth’s columns and articles from the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967), the San Francisco Bay Guardian (1967-1972), and San Francisco Magazine (1967-1975). Copyright 1960-1967 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.

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