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Mario Savio on the Fight for Educational Reform

Mario Savio on the Fight for Educational Reform


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Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, was a frequent speaker in the spate of student demonstrations held on campus in fall 1964. In one public statement, Savio protests the university's ban of political activity on school grounds.


Mario Savio on the Fight for Educational Reform - HISTORY

[1] Last summer I went to Mississippi to join the struggle there for civil rights. This fall I am engaged in another phase of the same struggle, this time in Berkeley. The two battlefields may seem quite different to some observers, but this is not the case. The same rights are at stake in both places—the right to participate as citizens in [a] democratic society and the right to due process of law. Further, it is a struggle against the same enemy. In Mississippi an autocratic and powerful minority rules through organized violence to suppress the vast, virtually powerless majority. In California the privileged minority manipulates the university bureaucracy to suppress the students’ political expression. That “respectable” bureaucracy masks the financial plutocrats that impersonal bureaucracy is the efficient enemy in a Brave New World.

[2] In our free speech fight at the University of California, we have come up against what may emerge as the greatest problem of our nation—depersonalized, unresponsive bureaucracy. We have encountered the organized status quo in Mississippi, but it is the same in Berkeley. Here we find it impossible usually to meet with anyone but secretaries. Beyond that, we find functionaries who cannot make policy but can only hide behind the rules. We have discovered total lack of response on the part of the policy makers. To grasp a situation which is truly Kafkaesque, it is necessary to understand the bureaucratic mentality. And we have learned quite a bit about it this fall, more outside the classroom than in.

[3] As bureaucrat, an administrator believes that nothing new happens. He occupies an ahistorical point of view. In September, to get the attention of this bureaucracy which had issued arbitrary edicts suppressing student political expression and refused to discuss its action, we held a sit-in on the campus. We sat around a police car and kept it immobilized for over thirty-two hours. At last, the administrative bureaucracy agreed to negotiate. But instead, on the following Monday, we discovered that a committee had been appointed, in accordance with usual regulations, to resolve the dispute. Our attempt to convince any of the administrators that an event had occurred, that something new had happened, failed. They saw this simply as something to be handled by normal university procedures.

[4] The same is true of all bureaucracies. They begin as tools, means to certain legitimate goals, and they end up feeding their own existence. The conception that bureaucrats have is that history has in fact come to an end. No events can occur now that the Second World War is over which can change American society substantially. We proceed by standard procedures as we are.

[5] The most crucial problems facing the United States today are the problem of automation and the problem of racial injustice. Most people who will be put out of jobs by machines will not accept an end to events, this historical plateau, as the point beyond which no change occurs. Negroes will not accept an end to history here. All of us must refuse to accept history’s final judgment that in America there is no place in society for people whose skins are dark. On campus students are not about to accept it as fact that the university has ceased evolving and is in its final state of perfection, that students and faculty are respectively raw material and employees, or that the university is to be autocratically run by unresponsive bureaucrats.

[6] Here is the real contradiction: The bureaucrats hold history [h]as ended. As a result significant parts of the population both on campus and off are dispossessed, and these dispossessed are not about to accept this ahistorical point of view. It is out of this that the conflict has occurred with the university bureaucracy and will continue to occur until that bureaucracy becomes responsive or until it is clear the university cannot function.

[7] The things we are asking for in our civil rights protests have a deceptively quaint ring. We are asking for the due process of law. We are asking for our actions to be judged by committees of our peers. We are asking that regulations ought to be considered as arrived at legitimately only from the consensus of the governed. These phrases are all pretty old, but they are not being taken seriously in America today nor are they being taken seriously on the Berkeley campus.

[8] I have just come from a meeting with the Dean of Students. She notified us that she was aware of certain violations of university regulations by certain organizations. University friends of SNCC, which I represent, was one of these. We tried to draw from her some statement on these great principles, consent of the governed, jury of one’s peers, due process. The best she could do was to evade or to present the administration party line. It is very hard to make any contact with the human being who is behind these organizations.

[9] The university is the place where people begin seriously to question the conditions of their existence and raise the issue of whether they can be committed to the society they have been born into. After a long period of apathy during the ‘50s, students have begun not only to question but, having arrived at answers, to act on those answers. This is part of a growing understanding among many people in America that history has not ended, that a better society is possible and that it is worth dying for.

[10] This free speech fight points up a fascinating aspect of contemporary campus life. Students are permitted to talk all they want so long as their speech has no consequences.

[11] One conception of the university, suggest by a classical Christian formulation, is that it be in the world but not of the world. The conception of Clark Kerr by contrast is that the university is part and parcel of this particular stage in the history of American society it is a factory that turns out a certain product needed by industry or government. Because speech does often have consequences which might alter this perversion of higher education, the university must put itself in a position of censorship. It can permit two kinds of speech, speech which encourages continuation of the status quo and speech which advocates changes in it so radical as to be irrelevant in the foreseeable future. Someone may advocate radical change in all aspects of American society, and this I am sure he can do with impunity. But if someone advocates sit-ins to bring about changes in discriminatory hiring practices, this cannot be permitted because it goes against the status quo of which the university is a part. And that is how the fight began here.

[12] The administration of the Berkeley campus has admitted that external, extralegal groups have pressured the university not to permit students on campus to organize picket lines, not to permit on campus any speech with consequences. And the bureaucracy went along. Speech with consequences, speech in the area of civil rights, speech which some might regard as illegal, must stop.

[13] Many students here at the university, many people in society, are wandering aimlessly about. Strangers in their own lives, there is no place for them. They are people who have not learned to compromise, who, for example, have come to the university to learn to question, to grow, to learn—all the standard things that sound like clichés because no one takes them seriously. And they find at one point or another that for them to become part of society, to become lawyers, ministers, businessmen, people in government, that very often they must compromise those principles which were most dear to them. They must suppress the most creative impulses that they have this is a prior condition for being part of the system. The university is well structured, well tooled, to turn out people with all the sharp edges worn off, the well-rounded person. The university is well equipped to produce that sort of person, and this means that the best among the people who enter must for four years wander aimlessly much of the time questioning why they are on campus at all, doubting whether there is any point in what they are doing, and looking toward a very bleak existence afterward in a game in which all of the rules have been made up, which one cannot really amend.

[14] It is a bleak scene, but it is all a lot of us have to look forward to. Society provides us no challenge. American society in the standard conception it has of itself is simply no longer exciting. The most exciting things going on in America today are movements to change America. America is becoming ever more the utopia of sterilized, automated contentment. The “futures” and “careers” for which American students now prepare are for the most part intellectual and moral wastelands. This chrome-plated consumers’ paradise would have us grow up to be well-behaved children. But an important minority of men and women coming to the front today have shown that they will die rather than be standardized, replaceable, and irrelevant.


“Subversives”: How the FBI Fought the 1960s Student Movement and Aided Reagan’s Rise to Power

Investigative journalist Seth Rosenfeld’s new book, “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power,” is based on more than 300,000 pages of records Rosenfeld received over three decades through five Freedom of Information lawsuits against the FBI . The book tracks how then- FBI director J. Edgar Hoover ordered his agents to investigate and then disrupt the Free Speech Movement that began in 1964 on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. The protests prevailed and helped spawn a nationwide student movement. Rosenfeld outlines in great detail how FBI records show agents used “dirty tricks to stifle dissent on the campus.” In the book’s more than 700 pages, he uses the documents to explore the interweaving stories of four main characters: the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover actor and politician Ronald Reagan, who was running for governor of California at the time Clark Kerr, then the University of California president and a target of scorn from both Reagan, Hoover and student activists and legendary Free Speech Movement leader and orator, Mario Savio. Click here to watch part 2 of the interview. [includes rush transcript]

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We want to continue our conversation with Seth Rosenfeld, longtime investigative reporter and author of Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power. Seth, we’ve had a long discussion on Richard Aoki, but he really is a small portion of your book. The large portion of it really deals, as the title says, with the FBI’s attempts to—through surveillance and repression of student radicals and university professors. You go into—in depth about the efforts of the agency against Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, and even against the president of the University of California system at the time, Clark Kerr. Could you talk a little bit about that?

SETH ROSENFELD : Yes. My book, Subversives, is a secret history of the ླྀs. It's the story of the FBI’s covert operations at the University of California at Berkeley and the surrounding campus community during the Cold War. It’s based on more than 250,000 pages of FBI documents. And one of the main parts of the book focuses on the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and Mario Savio.

The Free Speech Movement was one of the first major student protests of the 1960s. It was nonviolent. It was inspired by the civil rights movement. And it was actually a protest against a campus rule that prohibited students from engaging in any kind of political activity on campus. So, for example, if students wanted to hand out a leaflet for the Republican National Convention, which in the summer of ོ was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, they were prohibited from doing that. If they wanted to hand out a leaflet saying, “Come to this civil rights demonstration,” they couldn't do that, either. The students felt that this was an unconstitutional abridgment of their First Amendment rights. And that’s what the protest was about.

Mario Savio emerged as perhaps the most prominent spokesperson for the Free Speech Movement. Mario is a fascinating character. He was born in New York City in 1942. He was extremely bright, had a above genius-level IQ and, in high school, a 96.6 grade point average. He was raised in a very religious Catholic family. He was brought up to be a priest. And he, for much of his early life, thought he would become a priest. But as he went through high school, he began to have doubts about his faith. He began to question the dogma and became interested in philosophy and science. He began to look elsewhere to, as he put it—excuse me—as he put it, to do good in the world.

AMY GOODMAN : You know, while you take a water break, I thought we would play a clip. UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza first drew national attention in 1964 when thousands of students struggled for their right to free speech on campus, led by, as you’re describing, student activist Mario Savio. This is a speech he delivered nearly half a century ago on the steps of Sproul Hall.

MARIO SAVIO : There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

AMY GOODMAN : That was Mario Savio. Give us the context, as you continue with Mario Savio’s story, of this address.

SETH ROSENFELD : Yes. Mario actually had a very debilitating stutter when speaking in small groups of people. But when he was impassioned and speaking against what he believed was injustice, he spoke with divine fire. And that speech is an example of that. And people who were in that audience in the crowd on Sproul Plaza that day have said that that speech sent shivers down their backs. He moved people to participate. And as a result of his speech and all the work that the Free Speech Movement had done, more than a thousand people streamed into Sproul Hall and staged what was the nation’s largest sit-in to date, overnight, more than 800 people arrested the next day. And this was shocking that students would engage in this kind of behavior. At that time in our history, most campuses were characterized by a kind of complacency and conformity. The Free Speech Movement was a major break from that, and it was very shocking to people, particularly J. Edgar Hoover.

According to the FBI documents that I’ve reviewed, the FBI had special concerns about the University of California, starting at least in World War II. As you know, the University of California played a key role in developing the atomic bomb that was used to end World War II. And during the war and immediately thereafter, there were Soviet efforts to obtain, through espionage, using members of the Communist Party, secrets from the radiation lab. So, some of the records I look at document the FBI’s extensive investigation into Soviet espionage at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1940s.

But what you see in the following decades is the FBI , under J. Edgar Hoover, veers from that important national security mission to focus instead on professors engaged in dissent. And during the 1950s, the FBI had a secret program called the Responsibilities Program. And through this program, FBI agents secretly gave governors of nearly every state allegations against professors who were deemed to be too radical or too liberal. The governors would take this information secretly, pass it along to university officials and have them investigate and question and sometimes fire the professors. The professors never knew where these allegations came from. They never had the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses against them. Then, later—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Seth Rosenfeld, as you mention—

SETH ROSENFELD : I’m sorry.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As you mention in the book, often the allegations that the FBI passed on were wrong, were erroneous, and people were tarred just because they may have been—had met with somebody who was politically active in a left-wing movement, so that much of the information the FBI passed on was erroneous.

SETH ROSENFELD : Yes, that’s true. In a number of instances, I was able to document that, in the case of California, the governor at the time, Earl Warren, passed along these reports to the president of the university, Robert Gordon Sproul. And when the university investigated them, they found they were unsubstantiated. So—

AMY GOODMAN : And the role of—

SETH ROSENFELD : —that was an extensive program, and nearly a thousand professors around the country were forced from their jobs as a result of it in the early 1950s.

Then, in the very early 1960s, you see—late 󈧶s, early 󈨀s, you see the FBI shift its focus to students who are engaged in political dissent. The FBI starts to investigate them and creates—actually has a list call the “Security Index.” This is a list of people who are deemed potential threats to national security in the event of a national emergency and who would be arrested without warrant and detained indefinitely during an emergency. And quite a few professors and students at Berkeley in the early 󈨀s were on this secret list. In fact, at that time, former agents told me that the FBI considered Berkeley to be one of the most radical cities in the United States, with the highest per capita number of people on the Security Index.

So, to come back to the Free Speech Movement, when that happens in 1964, J. Edgar Hoover and other FBI officials see this as further evidence of a subversive plot to disrupt the nation’s campuses, and they respond by intensively investigating it and going beyond investigating it with secret efforts to disrupt it and neutralize it in various ways.

AMY GOODMAN : Seth Rosenfeld, we don’t have much time. We have less than two minutes. But you’re following the trajectory of Ronald Reagan, who famously said in 1970, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.” He’s talking about the students. The role—how extensively Ronald Reagan was involved with the FBI , more than was previously known?

SETH ROSENFELD : Yes, he was much more involved with the FBI than previously known. And one of the arguments in my book is that his covert relationship with the FBI had a profound influence on his political development. This relationship begins in Hollywood in the years immediately after World War II, when FBI agents approached Ronald Reagan, and he becomes an informer. And he names other people in Hollywood, actors, who he suspects of subversive activity. And he names more people than we’ve previously known. Through my Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, I obtained more than 10,000 pages on Ronald Reagan during his pre-presidential years. This is the most extensive record of the FBI’s activities concerning him. When Reagan is president of the Screen Actors Guild, the FBI has wide access to information from Guild records about actors whom the FBI is investigating. And then, later, the FBI returns the favor to Reagan by doing personal and political help for him. During my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FBI was withholding certain information, claiming it was law enforcement information. And I challenged that. I said the context suggests that this is actually personal and political help. And the court agreed and ordered the information released. And what those records show—

AMY GOODMAN : Five seconds.

SETH ROSENFELD : —is that in 1960, for example, the FBI , at the request of Ronald Reagan and his former wife, Jane Wyman, conducted an investigation into the romantic life of his daughter, Maureen Reagan. The Reagans had heard that she was living with—she was then 18, living in Washington, D.C., and they had heard that she was living with an older married policeman.

AMY GOODMAN : We’re going to have to leave it there, Seth Rosenfeld, author of Subversives.


Mario Savio's FBI Odyssey / How the man who challenged 'the machine' got caught in the gears and wheels of J. Edgar Hoover's bureau

1 of 12 SAVIO 2/B/12MAY64/MN/UPI - Mario Savio (l) one of the leaders of the FSX movement at the University of California, tells 5,000 people at rally in Berkeley 12/4/64, that his group would continue efforts to expand political freedom on the campus. The Free Speech Movement called a general strike 12/4/64 wyhich has disrupted this campus for the second considective day. Photo by UPI ALSO RAN: 12/4/97 - 3 CAT UPI Show More Show Less

2 of 12 Police arrest protester at UC Berkeley, December 1964. Chronicle File Photo, 1964 Show More Show Less

4 of 12 Pickets support FSM at Sather Gate, UC Berkeley. Chronickle Staff Photo by Joe Rosenthal Joe Rosenthal Show More Show Less

5 of 12 Mario Savio and other student protestors march through Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus, heading for a meeting of the UC Regents. PHOTO BY DON KECHELY Show More Show Less

7 of 12 Mario Savio (standing) leader of Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. Chronicle Staff Photo by John McBride John McBride Show More Show Less

CAMPUS19-B-20DEC01-SN-FILE Mario Savio at microphone, Berkeley Campus Police and professor Robert A. Scalapino. SAVIO/B/07DEC64/MN/DUKE DOWNEY - Mario Savio, speaking on the steps of Sproul Hall in 1964, wa apporoached byan officer. Photo by Duke Downey

10 of 12 Jack Kurzweil, Mario Savio, Suzanne Savio, Bettina Apheker Chronicle staff photo by Peter Breinig Show More Show Less

11 of 12 Mario Savio tearful during 20th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. UPI PHOTO BY MARTIN JEONG Show More Show Less

J. Edgar Hoover strode into a closed congressional chamber and delivered a blunt warning to the House Appropriations subcommittee about a threat to national security in the Bay Area.

The 1964 Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, which staged the nation's first major campus sit-ins of the '60s, was being used in a Soviet plot against America. Hoover implied that the Communist Party USA was manipulating Mario Savio, the Berkeley student who'd become famous for leading the FSM. "Communist Party leaders feel that based on what happened on the campus at the University of California at Berkeley, they can exploit similar student demonstrations to their own benefit in the future," Hoover testified on March 4, 1965.

But FBI files show Hoover knew there was no evidence Savio or the Free Speech Movement were under the influence of any group plotting to overthrow the U.S. government. He knew the FSM was a nonviolent protest against a university rule barring students from engaging in political activity on campus. He knew Savio broke no federal law. He knew because his agents had told him.

Hoover's FBI spied on Savio for years because he had emerged as the nation's most prominent student leader, a symbol of revolt against the establishment. Savio gave the speech that sparked the massive sit-in at Sproul Hall that fall, his words striking at not only the impersonal nature of the modern university but at all of bureaucratic society: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even tacitly take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop," the 21-year-old said. "And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Savio spoke and hundreds of people occupied the administration building overnight, leading police to make the largest mass arrest in of students in U. S. history and shocking a public accustomed to campus conformity.

A few days later at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., Hoover told his aides he feared Savio and his fellow protesters would inspire student rebellion "at other colleges across the land. We need to and will give continuous attention to this matter."

Hoover turned his surveillance machine on Savio: the indexes, dossiers, watch lists and informers the liaisons with local police and the CIA the discreet contacts with neighbors, school officials and employers and, finally, covert action to "disrupt" and "neutralize" him. In 1976, a U.S. Senate subcommittee exposed these kinds of unconstitutional activities on a huge scale and forced the FBI to adopt strict investigative guidelines.

Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, the third highest FBI official under Hoover, denied the FBI abused its power in Savio's case. "We looked at him more or less as fomenting various activities which could promote anarchy," he said in an interview.

LaRae Quy, an FBI spokeswoman in San Francisco, declined to comment on the Savio case. "It's not today's FBI," she said. The FBI now has more oversight -- from Congress and others -- and "the highest standards of integrity."

As the Free Speech Movement hits its 40th anniversary this month, some say the FBI's treatment of Savio illustrates the potential for abuse in the bureau's greatly expanded surveillance apparatus since Sept. 11, 2001. Attorney General John Ashcroft has loosened bureau guidelines, and the Patriot Act has given federal agents more power to pry. "You have a very wide-open playing field," said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, in Washington, D.C.

When I first met Savio in 1982, he told me he suspected FBI agents had monitored campus rallies but did not think they had targeted him. Before he died in 1996, he gave me permission to request his FBI files, which were released only after I sued under the Freedom of Information Act.

Those previously secret files show the FBI caught Savio in the gears and wheels and levers of its intelligence machinery, even as the reluctant radical leader was mysteriously withdrawing from politics and struggling with his own inner conflicts.

Savio came to Berkeley from New York City in fall 1963 to study philosophy. He brought an overriding sense of morality and troubling questions about authority. He was born Dec. 8, 1942, to a steelworker father from Sicily who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. His mother was a housewife. He had one older brother. The family was devoutly Catholic. Two aunts were nuns, and he was an altar boy who planned to be a priest. From the beginning, he said later, his mission in life was not to get rich or have a career, but to fight evil and do good.

Growing up in the '50s, Savio was part of the first generation raised under the threat of nuclear war. He participated in air-raid drills at school and believed J. Edgar Hoover when he said communists wanted to overthrow America. But as a teen, Savio began asking questions. He doubted whether diving under his desk would save him from an atomic blast. He came to reject the Bible stories he'd been taught as fact. "Not that things couldn't have happened that way," he said, "but there seemed to be lots of reasons to think maybe they hadn't."

Holocaust photographs hit him hardest. "Heaps of bodies. Mounds of bodies. Nothing affected my consciousness more than those pictures," he said. "They meant to me that everything needed to be questioned. Reality itself." Savio was stunned by his realization that many Germans, and many others, had accepted mass murder. "I mean, how could it possibly [be]? I started to get the idea that people weren't really coming clean about things . that there was almost a conspiracy not to tell the truth to oneself, even on a mass scale. "

After graduating from high school, Savio worked with a church group building sanitary facilities in the slums of Taxco, Mexico. When he arrived at Berkeley he found student life dominated by sororities and fraternities. The dry logic of analytic philosophy ruled the lecture halls, but existentialism held court in the coffeehouses. Savio and other students were following the civil rights movement in the South. In August 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led 250,000 people in a march on Washington and declared, "I Have a Dream." In September, Ku Klux Klan members bombed a Birmingham church, killing four girls.

Some students joined pickets of Bay Area businesses that refused to hire blacks, including Mel's Drive-Ins, car dealers along Van Ness Avenue's "Auto Row" and San Francisco hotels. "The spirit of 'do good' and 'resist evil' was an important part of my religious upbringing," said Savio. "I saw [that] present in the civil rights movement, and I wanted to ally myself with that." Besides, he recalled, the civil rights protests were starting to become hip and "there was this girl I wanted to impress . "

One day in March 1964, Savio was at the entrance to campus at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue when someone handed him a leaflet advertising a sit- in at San Francisco's Sheraton-Palace Hotel. He was soon among nearly 1,000 people in its grand lobby, chanting "We Shall Overcome." The protest stretched from March 6 to March 7, ending only after Mayor John Shelley negotiated a minority-hiring agreement. Savio was one of 167 charged with trespassing.

Soon after, an FBI agent discreetly visited the San Francisco Police Department's intelligence unit and picked up a list of the arrestees and their photographs for bureau dossiers. It was part of secret FBI investigations that were supposed to ferret out alleged Communist infiltration of the civil rights movement and other advocacy groups. "In practice the target often became the domestic groups themselves," said the 1976 report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (known as the Church Committee for its chairman, Sen. Frank Church).

By 1963, the FBI had opened more than 441,000 "subversion" files on individuals and organizations, the report said, and "the investigation of the civil rights movement . added massive reports . on lawful political activity and law-abiding Americans."

Savio plunged into civil rights work -- and soon encountered both the Ku Klux Klan and the FBI.

Savio was in a San Francisco jail after his arrest at the Sheraton-Palace when a cell mate asked "are you going to Mississippi" -- meaning Mississippi Freedom Summer. The project aimed to bring hundreds of white Northern students South to register black voters and raise the civil rights movement's profile nationally.

For Savio, it was a way to do good -- and a reality check. "I was really on a 'doubt all things' trip in part fed by analytic philosophy," Savio said. "I wanted to come into contact with some reality. I had to go to Mississippi."

It was dangerous. On June 21, 1964, civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were arrested, released, then murdered by Klansmen.

At about 4 p.m. July 22, Savio was walking down the street in Jackson, Miss., with another white civil rights worker and a black acquaintance. Savio wore a "One Man/One Vote" button. Suddenly, a gray 1950s Chevrolet sedan pulled up and two men with clubs got out and attacked them.

Savio and his fellow volunteer filed charges with the local police the investigation went nowhere. But earlier that month, President Lyndon Johnson had signed the Civil Rights Act, and he pressed a reluctant Hoover to probe civil rights violations.

Two FBI agents tracked the car's license plate, identified an attacker and turned over evidence to state prosecutors. But in Jackson County court, the assailant was convicted only of misdemeanor assault and fined $50.

The special agent in charge of the new Jackson FBI office suggested the case agents be "commended for their excellent performance," but FBI headquarters declined. And though the local prosecutor promised to credit the FBI's investigation, Hoover's aides didn't want attention for solving a crime against a civil rights activist whom the FBI already suspected might be subversive. "This does not seem desirable," said one.

But after students captured a police car on the Berkeley campus a few months later, Hoover ordered his agents to give Savio special attention.

Savio took off his shoes and climbed onto the roof of the white campus police car trapped in the middle of Sproul Plaza.

Thousands of students had surrounded the patrol car on Oct. 1, 1964, and sat down when police tried to drive off with a former student named Jack Weinberg, whom they had arrested for soliciting contributions to a civil rights group. The conflict had been building ever since Savio and other students returned to campus that fall eager to continue their civil rights work, only to learn the administration was enforcing a ban on campus political activity. The rule barred handing out leaflets or collecting money for any off- campus political cause, even Goldwater or Johnson for president.

Savio saw the ban not only as a denial of his First Amendment rights but also as an attempt to thwart the civil rights movement. As he pondered how to respond, he recalled how he'd urged blacks to risk their lives by registering to vote. "Am I a Judas?" he asked himself. "I'm going to betray the people whom I endangered now that I'm back home?" For two weeks, the students tried to negotiate with the administration. When that failed they violated the ban, setting up folding tables and leaflets in front of Sproul Hall. That led police to arrest Weinberg.

For the next 32 hours, the students held the car captive, with Weinberg inside, as Savio and others condemned the rule from atop the car's soon- flattened roof. Meanwhile, hundreds of helmeted police lined up behind Sproul Hall, ready to make arrests. Finally, Savio climbed the car roof once more to announce a temporary agreement with UC President Clark Kerr: The university would review its ban on political activity the students would desist from illegal protests. "I ask you to rise quietly and with dignity, and go home," he said, and the crowd did.

The students soon formed the Free Speech Movement to fight the ban on political activity. The FSM included campus groups from across the political spectrum, held lengthy open meetings and made collective decisions through a steering committee. Savio emerged as the most prominent FSM leader. He sometimes stuttered speaking to small groups, but his speech flowed eloquently before crowds.

Savio was a key link between the Southern civil rights movement and the nascent student movement that would sweep the country. "He was an early example of people who put their lives on the line and who were inspired and transformed by the discipline of the civil rights movement," said Taylor Branch, author of "Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63," the Pulitzer Prize-winning study of the civil rights movement. "He took it back and applied it correctly to issues at Berkeley. The idea that students were actors in history . and felt impelled to be activists in the world . was really a thunderbolt."

Negotiations with the administration failed. The FSM issued an ultimatum: Lift the ban and drop disciplinary charges against Savio and other leaders in 24 hours -- or face "direct action."

On Dec. 2, more than 4,000 people filled Sproul Plaza to hear Savio give what would become his most famous speech, about "the operation of the machine. " His words electrified people, who occupied Sproul Hall overnight. Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown ordered police to arrest the protesters. Almost 800 were arrested for trespassing, and police were still carrying them out the next morning. The arrests triggered more protests. Trying to restore order, Kerr called a campuswide meeting at the Greek Theatre on Dec. 7. The audience of more than 16,000 listened as Kerr proposed a compromise that still fell short of granting students the constitutional right of free speech on campus. Just as he finished speaking, Savio strode toward the lectern. Two officers pulled him away by his coat and tie. The crowd began to chant, "Let him speak." Kerr let him, and Savio briefly announced a rally to be held later.

The next day, the Berkeley faculty, upset by the handling of Savio, voted overwhelmingly to back the FSM's call to lift the ban. The faculty vote drove UC's governing Board of Regents to declare on Dec. 18 that university rules should follow the U.S. Supreme Court orders on free speech, conceding the FSM's key point.

The FBI had been investigating the FSM from the start. Agents in the crowd around the police car took notes and photos. Hoover read their reports and ordered agents around the country to determine whether the FSM was influenced by the Communist Party. He was particularly concerned because one of the FSM's leaders was Bettina Aptheker, publicly known to be in a Marxist youth group called the W.E.B. DuBois Club and the daughter of Herbert Aptheker, a top official of the Communist Party USA. But after four months of investigation, Curtis O. Lynum, the special agent in charge of the San Francisco FBI office, reported, "It is the opinion of this office that subversive participation in the demonstrations did not have any bearing on the measure of success achieved." Some communists or socialists were among the thousands of participants, Lynum said, but "the demonstrations would have taken place with or without any participation by subversives because of basic grievances."

On Jan. 19, 1965, Lynum affirmed his finding in a second report. At this point, the FBI's investigation of the Free Speech Movement ceased to have any legitimate purpose and "came to focus on political rather than law enforcement aims," the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals later ruled in ordering the FBI to release records in response to my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The court said FBI records showed Savio had "negligible contacts with communists" and the bureau unlawfully investigated him. But Savio had emerged from the FSM as the nation's best-known student radical, the subject of television and magazine features. Hoover's investigation of him was just heating up.

On March 12, 1965, the San Francisco FBI sent bureau headquarters a secret 33-page report on nearly every aspect of Savio's life:

1) Physical Description: White, Male, age 22, 6'1", 195 pounds, medium build, blue eyes, brown hair, no scars. "Peculiarities -- has slight speech impediment at times."

2) Background: Graduated first in class, Martin Van Buren High School, Queens, New York, June 1960. Grade point average, 96.6. Class valedictorian. Editor, school paper. Honorable Mention, Westinghouse Science contest.

Manhattan College, full scholarship, Queens College, 1960-1963. Enrolled UC-Berkeley, fall 1963. Marital status, single. Draft status, 2-S (student deferment). No credit history. Arrests, Sheraton-Palace protest and Sproul Hall sit-in.

3) Activities: Leader of Free Speech Movement. Speaker at anti-Vietnam war rallies. Quoted extensively in the press, including these excerpts from LIFE magazine:

On modern education: "The university is a vast public utility which turns out future workers in today's vineyard, the military-industrial complex."

On politics: "I am not a political person. My involvement in the Free Speech Movement is religious and moral . I don't know what made me get up and give that first speech. I only know I had to."

On civil disobedience: ". You can't disobey the rules every time you disapprove. However, when you're considering something that constitutes an extreme abridgement of your rights, conscience is the court of last resort."

The report concluded by reviewing Savio's alleged "contacts" with "subversive" groups. He had spoken twice at meetings of the Socialist Workers Party and once at the W.E.B. DuBois Club. He had frequently -- and publicly -- associated with Bettina Aptheker during the FSM. But none of the FBI's many informers in the Communist Party could provide any information on Savio.

Based on the report, the San Francisco FBI office proposed putting Savio on a secret, unauthorized list of people to be detained, without judicial warrant, in the event of a national emergency. It was called the Reserve Index, and the FBI never told the Department of Justice about it.

The FBI created the Reserve Index in 1956 with the names of people who did not meet standards for another detention list the Justice Department had approved. By 1959, the Reserve Index totaled 12,784 names.

San Francisco agents recommended Savio for the list "in view of his leadership in the Free Speech Movement (FSM) and the national news coverage of the FSM, his contacts with known Communist Party members, his contemptuous attitude, and other miscellaneous activities."

FBI headquarters admonished the agents for not putting Savio on the detention list sooner.

Savio was back on the Sproul steps on April 26, 1965, attacking the university's plan to punish four students for using obscenities on campus.

He didn't appreciate the students' display of a profane sign, in what became known as the Filthy Speech Movement. But now he charged the university with denying them "even rudimentary demands of due process." It was the kind of argument the campus had come to expect from Savio.

Then Savio abruptly announced he was quitting as an FSM leader. "I've thought a long time about it," he said on the steps where he'd delivered speeches that brought the university to a halt. "Good luck and goodbye."

Savio had been torn, his friends said recently -- by misgivings about leadership, by internal conflicts, by a struggle to balance his personal life with his political activity.

As he explained in his farewell speech, he feared the Free Speech Movement was becoming "undemocratic" and he was guilty of "Bonapartism." In a letter to the Daily Californian student newspaper soon after, Savio implied students were becoming too dependent on him. But he added, "This does not preclude . my participation in campus political activity at some time in the future."

A few weeks after he quit, FBI agents summoned Savio to their Berkeley office. Savio arrived for the May 12 meeting with his lawyer and was sarcastic from the start. "So this is the Federal Bureau of Inquisition," he quipped. The agents "immediately advised that he was in the Berkeley Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." They told him they had received letters threatening him with physical harm and were investigating the matter, an FBI memo said. But they balked at the presence of his lawyer, saying "the FBI could not vouch for the confidential matter of information if a third party is present and therefore, preferred not to discuss the matter" with his attorney there.

Savio refused to dispatch his lawyer and declined to cooperate with the inquiry. He criticized the FBI for its "failure to make arrests and take action in the South where human rights are being violated every day." The agents firmly replied that the FBI always fulfills its duty. Savio and the agents agreed to end the meeting.

One week later, newspapers around the country reported Hoover's congressional testimony implying Savio was being used in a Communist scheme to disrupt the nation's campuses. The New York Times reported on Page One that Hoover said Savio was "closely associated" with Aptheker. She said in a recent interview that any implication that they were lovers was false.

At the time, Savio and Aptheker shrugged it off. "We find Mr. Hoover's statements . patently absurd," they said in a joint statement. "It once again indicates Mr. Hoover's inability to grapple with and understand that there were real issues confronting the students at the University of California."

Hoover saw Savio as a threat to the existing social order, and he meant to do something about it.

Mario Savio and Suzanne Goldberg were excused from their Alameda County trial for the Sproul Hall sit-in for one day, to be married. Goldberg, 24, a graduate student in philosophy, and Savio, 22, had met early in the Free Speech Movement. She had been attracted by his brilliance, eloquence and principled stands. The small, private wedding was held May 23, 1965, at the home of a Los Angeles municipal court judge who administered the vows, and was attended by Savio's parents, brother, lawyer and one other friend.

When a reporter interviewed him about the wedding, Savio took the opportunity to make a political statement. "There's one thing we'd really like to have as a wedding present," he said. "We would like President Johnson to withdraw all our troops from Vietnam. . "

An FBI agent obtained a copy of the Savios' marriage license and interviewed the county clerk who issued it to them. "Mario was very evasive to all questions. Suzanne did all the talking," the clerk reported. "They are both going to go back to Cal in September. . They both needed hair cuts and they were both a mess."

The couple did not return to Cal that fall. "We both felt that Mario needed to be away from Berkeley, where everyone seemed to need something from him and constantly pressured him to be something for them," Goldberg said.

In September, they boarded a ship, bound for Italy and England. They planned to stay abroad as long as a year. Savio had won a scholarship to study physics at Oxford University. Suzanne was pregnant with their first child. A Chronicle story reported, "Friends say Savio is uncertain about what he wants to do and feels a period abroad may help him make a decision."

FBI headquarters alerted bureau offices in London, Paris and Rome that the Savios were afoot. In a classified bulletin, the FBI also asked the CIA for "any pertinent information" on them. They were among thousands of American anti-war activists whom the CIA trailed for the FBI by contacting foreign intelligence services, according to the Church Committee.

In January 1966, the FBI's London office reported the CIA had found no evidence the couple was involved in "security" matters.

An FBI agent placed an indefinite "lookout notice" for Savio with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The lookout system worked roughly like a modern "no-fly" list, but instead of blocking their travel any INS agent who encountered them would alert the FBI.

Savio, meanwhile, was having trouble concentrating on his studies at Oxford. Instead of completing his class work, he compulsively analyzed his own physics problems, Goldberg said. She added, "We had to leave Oxford . because Mario's internal pressures became too great for him."

On Feb. 16, 1966, an Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector at Kennedy International Airport notified the FBI that the Savios and Stefan, their baby boy, had just arrived from London. Their destination was an apartment on Durant Avenue in Berkeley.

An FBI agent in Berkeley asked his "confidential sources and informants .. . to notify this office . if and when they arrive." He also checked local phone and utilities companies for new service records. At his request, agents in New York, Los Angeles and New Haven contacted local police and postal officials to see whether the Savios were visiting relatives.

All to no avail. The Savios were driving back to California with his parents. The landlord reported their arrival on May 20, 1966. Posing as a member of UC Berkeley's philosophy department, an FBI agent phoned Savio and learned he planned to return to school to study math or physics. The agent updated Savio's address on the FBI's detention list.

Savio's plans for quiet study went awry. The university denied his application in August 1966, saying it was a week late.

And though he had largely abstained from campus activism since resigning from the FSM 17 months earlier, he resumed his position on the Sproul Hall steps that fall, protesting campus restrictions on rallies. As voters went to the polls Nov. 8 to elect as governor Ronald Reagan -- who had vowed to crack down on protests at Berkeley -- Savio predicted more civil disobedience "if we do not win the rights of due process and judicial review."

Alarmed FBI headquarters officials ordered San Francisco agents to intensify their probe of Savio. On Jan. 23, 1967, the agents reported that an informer claimed Savio had attended two "educational classes" of the Berkeley branch of the Communist Party. The report suggested Savio was more involved with Communists than previously known. It was repeated in other FBI reports and sent to Army intelligence. But it was wrong.

A subsequent FBI report said the informant's report had been incorrectly transcribed: Savio was not present his name was merely mentioned. FBI headquarters reiterated the error, and there is no sign the FBI told the Army about it.

But on the basis of that allegation, FBI headquarters on Feb. 23 ordered San Francisco to upgrade Savio to the Security Index. This was a list of people whom the bureau deemed most dangerous to national security in the event of a national emergency and would detain indefinitely without judicial warrant.

At its height in 1954, the list contained 26,174 names. According to the Church Committee, Congress was not informed of the detention plan, which was based partly on inaccurate information and failed to meet the legal requirement of "reasonable ground to believe" those listed would engage in espionage or sabotage.

Bureau officials also issued a "Security Flash" for Savio, a notice in the FBI's main crime computer to alert field offices whenever a police agency inquired about him.

The security flash listed him with the "alias" José Martí -- the 19th century poet exiled from Cuba at 16 for leading the independence movement -- under whose name Savio had listed his phone to avoid unwanted calls.

Mario and Suzanne Savio loaded 17-month-old Stefan and their bags into their car and drove away from Berkeley. "Things were too difficult here," Suzanne Savio told the Berkeley Barb underground newspaper as they left in early May 1967. "We're just going to get in the car and go."

For weeks, the FBI could not find them. On June 7, an agent contacted their landlord, who said they had bought a used station wagon and planned to visit Savio's relatives in Southern California and then drive to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he might enroll. FBI agents in Los Angeles, Massachusetts and New York contacted local police and college officials. The bureau ended the hunt only when Savio appeared in Alameda County Municipal Court on June 30 to be sentenced to 120 days at Santa Rita Prison for the Sproul Hall sit-in. "I would do it again," he told reporters. "I think it is the best thing that ever happened for American education."


Mario Savio on the Fight for Educational Reform - HISTORY

Published originally in Humanity, an arena of critique and commitment No. 2, December 1964. Reprinted with permission of Lynne Hollander. Copyright 1998 by Lynne Hollander.

I originally intended to revise [this] thoroughly. I have since changed my mind, deciding to have it reprinted as first taken from a tape made in Sproul Hall during the December sit-in. I find the article does not even conform to the subject of the title. But I also believe that a positive purpose would be served by preserving the text.

—Mario Savio

Last summer I went to Mississippi to join the struggle there for civil rights. This fall I am engaged in another phase of the same struggle, this time in Berkeley. The two battlefields may seem quite different to some observers, but this is not the case. The same rights are at stake in both places—the right to participate as citizens in democratic society and the right to due process of law. Further, it is a struggle against the same enemy. In Mississippi an autocratic and powerful minority rules, through organized violence, to suppress the vast, virtually powerless majority. In California, the privileged minority manipulates the university bureaucracy to suppress the students' political expression. That "respectable" bureaucracy masks the financial plutocrats that impersonal bureaucracy is the efficient enemy in a "Brave New World."

In our free-speech fight at the University of California, we have come up against what may emerge as the greatest problem of our nation —depersonalized, unresponsive bureaucracy. We have encountered the organized status quo in Mississippi, but it is the same in Berkeley. Here we find it impossible usually to meet with anyone but secretaries. Beyond that, we find functionaries who cannot make policy but can only hide behind the rules. We have discovered total lack of response on the part of the policy makers. To grasp a situation which is truly Kafkaesque, it is necessary to understand the bureaucratic mentality. And we have learned quite a bit about it this fall, more outside the classroom than in.

As bureaucrat, an administrator believes that nothing new happens. He occupies an a-historical point of view. In September, to get the attention of this bureaucracy which had issued arbitrary edicts suppressing student political expression and refused to discuss its action, we held a sit-in on the campus. We sat around a police car and kept it immobilized for over thirty-two hours. At last, the administrative bureaucracy agreed to negotiate. But instead, on the following Monday, we discovered that a committee had been appointed, in accordance with usual regulations, to resolve the dispute. Our attempt to convince any of the administrators that an event had occurred, that something new had happened, failed. They saw this simply as something to be handled by normal university procedures.

The same is true of all bureaucracies. They begin as tools, means to certain legitimate goals, and they end up feeding their own existence. The conception that bureaucrats have is that history has in fact come to an end. No events can occur now that the Second World War is over which can change American society substantially. We proceed by standard procedures as we are.

The most crucial problems facing the United States today are the problem of automation and the problem of racial injustice. Most people who will be put out of jobs by machines will not accept an end to events, this historical plateau, as the point beyond which no change occurs. Negroes will not accept an end to history here. All of us must refuse to accept history's final judgment that in America there is no place in society for people whose skins are dark. On campus students are not about to accept it as fact that the university has ceased evolving and is in its final state of perfection, that students and faculty are respectively raw material and employees, or that the university is to be autocratically run by unresponsive bureaucrats.

Here is the real contradiction: the bureaucrats hold history as ended. As a result significant parts of the population both on campus and off are dispossessed and these dispossessed are not about to accept this a-historical point of view. It is out of this that the conflict has occurred with the university bureaucracy and will continue to occur until that bureaucracy becomes responsive or until it is clear the university cannot function.

The things we are asking for in our civil-rights protests have a deceptively quaint ring. We are asking for the due process of law. We are asking for our actions to be judged by committees of our peers. We are asking that regulations ought to be considered as arrived at legitimately only from the consensus of the governed. These phrases are all pretty old, but they are not being taken seriously in America today, nor are they being taken seriously on the Berkeley campus.

I have just come from a meeting with the Dean of Students. She notified us that she was aware of certain violations of university regulations by certain organizations. University friends of Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, which I represent, was one of these. We tried to draw from her some statement on these great principles, consent of the governed, jury of one's peers, due process. The best she could do was to evade or to present the administration party line. It is very hard to make any contact with the human being who is behind these organizations.

The university is the place where people begin seriously to question the conditions of their existence and raise the issue of whether they can be committed to the society they have been born into. After a long period of apathy during the fifties, students have begun not only to question but, having arrived at answers, to act on those answers. This is part of a growing understanding among many people in America that history has not ended, that a better society is possible, and that it is worth dying for.

This free-speech fight points up a fascinating aspect of contemporary campus life. Students are permitted to talk all they want so long as their speech has no consequences.

One conception of the university, suggested by a classical Christian formulation, is that it be in the world but not of the world. The conception of Clark Kerr by contrast is that the university is part and parcel of this particular stage in the history of American society it stands to serve the need of American industry it is a factory that turns out a certain product needed by industry or government. Because speech does often have consequences which might alter this perversion of higher education, the university must put itself in a position of censorship. It can permit two kinds of speech, speech which encourages continuation of the status quo, and speech which advocates changes in it so radical as to be irrelevant in the foreseeable future. Someone may advocate radical change in all aspects of American society, and this I am sure he can do with impunity. But if someone advocates sit-ins to bring about changes in discriminatory hiring practices, this cannot be permitted because it goes against the status quo of which the university is a part. And that is how the fight began here.'

The administration of the Berkeley campus has admitted that external, extra-legal groups have pressured the university not to permit students on campus to organize picket lines, not to permit on campus any speech with consequences. And the bureaucracy went along. Speech with consequences, speech in the area of civil rights, speech which some might regard as illegal, must stop.

Many students here at the university, many people in society, are wandering aimlessly about. Strangers in their own lives there is no place for them. They are people who have not learned to compromise, who for example have come to the university to learn to question, to grow, to learn—all the standard things that sound like cliches because no one takes them seriously. And they find at one point or other that for them to become part of society, to become lawyers, ministers, businessmen, people in government, that very often they must compromise those principles which were most dear to them. They must suppress the most creative impulses that they have this is a prior condition for being part of the system. The university is well structured, well tooled, to turn out people with all the sharp edges worn off, the well-rounded person. The university is well equipped to produce that sort of person, and this means that the best among the people who enter must for four years wander aimlessly much of the time questioning why they are on campus at all, doubting whether there is any point in what they are doing, and looking toward a very bleak existence afterward in a game in which all of the rules have been made up, which one cannot really amend.

It is a bleak scene, but it is all a lot of us have to look forward to. Society provides no challenge. American society in the standard conception it has of itself is simply no longer exciting. The most exciting things going on in America today are movements to change America. America is becoming ever more the utopia of sterilized, automated contentment. The "futures" and "careers" for which American students now prepare are for the most part intellectual and moral wastelands. This chrome-plated consumers' paradise would have us grow up to be well-behaved children. But an important minority of men and women coming to the front today have shown that they will die rather than be standardized, replaceable and irrelevant.


Civil Disobedience - STUDENT REVOLT , USA, 1964





M. Savio was born in New York on Dec 8, 1942. in Catholic family. This WWII boy harbored aspirations of becoming a priest. In 1963, the 20-year old Savio spent the summer working with a Catholic relief organization in Taxco, Mexico. There, he contributed in helping to improve the sanitary problems of the ghetto slums by building sanitation facilities. No doubt he saw Hell on Earth in the time he spent in Mexico, exemplified in all of the weeping and wailing and mashing of teeth that characterizes its prevalence.


After returning home from Mexico in 1963, Savio’s family had moved to California. There, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the early incidents in which the agitator’s reputation evolved was during a 1964 demonstration against the San Francisco Hotel Association’s exclusion of blacks from non-menial jobs. While participating in the protest, Savio and 167 other demonstrators were arrested and charged with trespassing. During his imprisonment, Savio struck up a conversation with a fellow incarcerated protester who sparked his interest in heading to Mississippi during the summer of 󈨄 to assist the Civil Rights movement. Savio joined the Freedom Summer projects in Mississippi, helping register African Americans to vote. Additionally, the budding orator taught at a freedom school for black children, no doubt honing his public speaking skills.

Savio returned to Berkeley in the fall of 1964 intent on remaining politically active after all the injustice he had witnessed firsthand. The young Berkeley student attempted to raise money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an important organization of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement that had played a role in the 1963 sit-ins and freedom rides across the American South. To his unpleasant surprise, Savio discovered the university had banned all political activity and fund-raising. A classic response from the agitator, Savio laid it out in black and white. “Are we on the side of the civil rights movement? Or have we gotten back to the comfort and security of Berkeley, California, and can we forget the sharecroppers whom we worked with just a few weeks back? Well, we couldn’t forget.”

The UC Regents had long prohibited on-campus political activity at Berkeley prior to 1964. As a result, all political activity occurred on the Bancroft Strip in front of the Telegraph Avenue entrance to the campus. Based on the valid assumption that the Bancroft Strip was public property, the politically active community had an established reliance on this space as one in which political speech was protected from government restriction. In 1964, the UC Regents flipped the script on the mothafuckas, asserting that they had the right to restrict political activity on the Bancroft Strip because they did in fact own the property.

A demonstration broke out due to this stonewalling of the Free Speech Movement by the bureaucrats of the educational system. Jack Weinberg, a 24-year old Berkeley student, had set up a leafleting table on the plaza on behalf of the civil rights group. This action violated the campus’ policy prohibiting on-campus political activity, and Weinberg was handcuffed and stuffed into the back of a police vehicle. Savio, at the sight of his friend being subjugated and silenced by the powers that be, climbed atop a police car and kicked off the Free Speech Movement with his electrifying oration. The philosophy student, in all his eloquence, made sure to take off his shoes before he ascended the blatant symbol of the machine's authority. Surrounded by thousands, straight-up in his fucking socks, Savio delivered the first blow to the establishment’s oppressive grasp of people’s right to assembly. For the next 32 hours, students surrounded the police car and held about 600 officers at bay. Savio would climb atop the police car one last time during that incident, telling the crowd that a short-term understanding had been reached with Clark Kerr, the UC President. Savio addressed the enraged multitude with sincerity, “I ask you to rise quietly and with dignity, and go home.” The crowd, mesmerized by the tenacious empathy this man possessed, did exactly as he requested. The event would solidify Savio as an admirable symbol of the youth protests of the 1960’s.

Protests continued that fall after the negotiations failed to alter the situation. The culmination of this series of demonstrations was the sit-in by thousands at Berkeley's Sproul Hall. On December 2, 1964, Mario Savio would deliver his legendary speech regarding the “operation of the machine.” He gave this impassioned sermon in front of 4,000 people, with every one of them feeding off his energy while simultaneously reciprocating it back. Savio, along with 782 others, was arrested once again when the machine gave its foot soldiers the green-light to clear the area.

Eventually, the UC Board of Regents voted to drop the university restrictions on speech. Savio would comment on the outcome, “This free speech fight points up a fascinating aspect of contemporary campus life. Students are permitted to talk all they want, so long as their speech has no consequence.” In true civil disobedient form, Savio served a four-month jail sentence for his part in the sit-in. He also received an additional two-day jail term for contempt of court, after the agitator called out a furious judge about the “shameless hypocrisy” of his trial.

We watch with horror as crisis lifts the veil, and, to an unprecedented degree, the wheels of history feel particularly active in this moment, moving with increased speed, loosening with each turn. When our country was rapidly becoming an epicenter of COVID-19, throughout March and April, as the death toll mounted, as federal and state responses were patchy, uneven, and in some cases tantamount to murder as jobs evaporated along with insurance coverage as banks and businesses were bailed out while most of the rest of us were and are not and as our so-called benevolent billionaires hid out while tenants found themselves unable to pay rent, the American—by which I mean the late-capitalist—project seems desperate and cruel, a lit fire-cracker circling a drain.

And as that firecracker now explodes—with protests erupting in over 140 American cities following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd—all three victims of racist violence, not to mention a long history of police aggression and violence against minority communities—it’s a time for righteous anger, surely, for lines to be drawn in the proverbial sand. But it’s important to remember that this anger was always warranted, and that the problems we face now—be they political, be they economic, cultural, or medical—are symptoms of a deeper disease. And, in the least—whether by speech or brick—there have always been those willing to articulate that rage.

Mario Savio speaks at Sproul Hall

This is no rupture indeed, today’s catastrophes (up to an including COVID and the current uprising in the streets) are puzzle pieces that fit perfectly with what’s come before. The same kinds of problems and struggles exist like threads of tension through history between an unjust economic and political order and the people living within it. These threads can be seen in all aspects of our society, wherever its citizens have become wholly commodified accessories to the surveillance state. And, in many ways, on December 2nd, 1964, there was a declaration of conflict and a call to justice, when Mario Savio, leader of the University of California Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM), took the steps of Sproul Hall, and delivered the “Bodies Upon The Gears Speech” in front of 4,000 students and activists. On the heels of the Freedom Summer of the Civil Rights Movement (which saw many northern college students and organizers join, march with, and perform civil disobedience alongside Black activists in the South as part of the Freedom Riders Campaign)—and as political formations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) as well as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were coming into their own—Savio and thousands of others were sitting-in to protest the University’s prohibition of political activity and speech on campus. But it was about more than just freedom of expression.

As with any great oratory, the words of the speech still ring true, perhaps now more than ever. They’re a searing indictment of not only what the UC system was becoming at the time, but of the very function of institutions of higher learning in a democratic society and in an unbridled capitalist economy. What’s at stake—the question of free expression and political speech, of what a democratic society could and should look like—is laid out in stark, fiery terms. There’s a stunning clarity to the way Savio characterizes the nature of this struggle: “Sometimes, the grievances of people are more…than just the law,” he said, “[they] extend to a whole mode of arbitrary power, a whole mode of arbitrary exercise of arbitrary power.” The sights here are set on the university as something that not only upholds an oppressive status quo in preventing rights to free assembly and speech, but that is, in itself, a kind of factory run, as all of them are in capitalism, as “an autocracy” (in this case under UC President Clark Kerr). And here, of course, Savio draws out the implications: “if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the Board of Directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I tell you something—the faculty are a bunch of employees and we're the raw material…we’re a bunch of raw materials that don't mean to be…made into any product!” In a sense, Savio and the FSM aimed to unmask the liberal notions of what a university, ideally, was supposed to do, and point to its normative, and even class-reinforcing function. And, in as much Savio addresses UC Berkeley itself, he’s also describing the American project as a whole. Imagine what he might think of Facebook?

Nat Farbman/The LIFE Images Collection

As has been told many times over, college campuses, with Berkeley positioned at the center, were becoming hotbeds of dissident activity, and this was starting to gain wider traction in the mid to late 60’s. But, in turn came the efforts to suppress and oppose this groundswell: Savio and 781 others were arrested that day, and he eventually received a sentence of 120 days in prison for his activity. By the time he gave this speech, Savio, among numerous other Civil Rights and student leaders, was already being investigated and tailed by the FBI (from a memo sent out December 11th, 1964: “all offices have been instructed to intensify their coverage of the activities of Savio…particularly if there is any indication that Savio or his companions are in contact with subversive groups”). Set against them, as noted by fellow campus activist and erstwhile California State Senator, Tom Hayden, were not only hostile, cold-war era Feds and police, but forces within the administration and the political establishment that would change the shape of the university system. The reaction, as he put it in his introduction to The Essential Mario Savio: Speeches and Writings, was a coordinated official attack on subversive elements in the university’s student body, “permissive” administrators, and professors deemed to be “communist.” It happened from the top down, and, he notes, “[t]he current era of privatization and neoliberalism was born in Berkeley as a countermovement to the 60’s.” In essence, it is here, in that push-pull, that you can see the campus culture-wars begin to crystallize, and you can see how these conflicts reflected wider ones in society.

Savio being dragged off by police/Nat Farbman/The LIFE Images Collection

As the Civil Rights, anti-war, free speech, and other movements were really kicking into gear, in 1966, Californian voters elected Ronald Reagan governor, cementing the former actor’s infamous political trajectory. To him, not only were student activist groups like FSM, SDS, and others seen as trouble, but the university system itself was problematic. It was Reagan who oversaw tuitions being first imposed on the University of California system, kickstarting a trend in which conservative governance came to see campuses of hotbeds of incendiary, anti-American activity that needed to be cleaned up. His priorities during his campaign were two-fold—“to clean up the mess at Berkeley” and (of course) to get “the welfare bums back to work”—and these have basically become the priorities of politicians from both parties ever since. Between Reagan, and, of course, another Californian politician, Nixon, you see a conservative vilification of “the egg-heads” and intellectuals, and an attempt to use institutions to constrain radicalism and incendiary thought. To be sure, the grim calculus of these politicians—by effectively cleaving away the left from the white working class by appealing to the darker side of our culture and by suggestions of intellectual elitism and perceived liberal condescension—continues to set the tone for much our politics.

Hard as the original student activists tried, and despite successes that they did have in their time, a course was set for higher education in America as part of a larger shift away from public funding and broader social programs. What successive decades wrought, regardless of whether a Republican or Democrat was in charge, was a move towards a more streamlined, business-like approach in essentially all aspects of life. It’s not news, then, that tuitions for all universities—certainly for public ones—have been growing, and that the level of student debt currently held is astronomical and likely untenable. Given the price of admission, the student became student-product and indeed a lump of material as Savio would have it. As such, higher education has been increasingly framed as an investment, a certification, a stepping stone, rather than something that has intrinsic value, and this has brought on a number of unfortunate effects, both in terms of who studies what and how subjects are taught. In 1970, the most popular major was Education, followed by Social Sciences or History in 2019, Business held a slight edge over Engineering (in aggregate).

All of this seems to crop up on the steps of Sproul Hall on that afternoon in 1964. The central image of Savio’s speech—the University of California system as a factory whose “gears” are meant to spit out passive, conforming students into the market—is a lofty one, but one that seems particularly prescient. It may be no stretch to say that, as Savio has it, universities graduate students to be “bought by some clients of the university, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone!” More than a half century later, public universities are expensive and themselves run, in many ways, like businesses, thereby making education transactional. As state funding dried up, in-state tuition at the UC Berkeley has currently ballooned to over $14,000 per year (over $40,000 for out-of-state students), and, as an increasing teaching load is taken on by underpaid adjunct and graduate student faculty, more and more money is funneled into the administration. The salary of the UC system’s current president, Janet Napolitano (former Governor of Arizona and President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security) is $578,916 a year, though she’s actually only the third highest paid in the system. And like all institutions of higher learning, UC Berkeley is funded by a complex ecosystem of alumni, foundational, and corporate funding that keeps it all afloat. It’s no stretch to say that these institutions seem more focused on fundraising than education.

Increasingly, however—and in keeping with —students and graduate student-faculty are grasping the problems and contradictions of the system as it stands. At the end of the Fall semester of 2019, graduate student instructors at UC Santa Cruz, members of the United Auto Workers Local 2865, launched a wildcat (that is, unsanctioned by the union) strike to pressure the administration to enact a much-needed cost of living adjustment (COLA). As it stands, these student-workers are paid an average of $2,400 a month during the academic year and spend up to 70 percent of their income on rent alone. After refusing to submit grades in protest, the students and their supporters began holding marches, facing off with campus police in riot gear arrests followed, as did reports of students being beaten. The situation is ongoing a day after 54 student worker strikers were fired on March 5th, the UC Santa Cruz campus was entirely shut down, leading to classes being canceled, and the union urging a reopening of negotiations. Indeed, over the last several years, these students are participating in a broader strike wave, as everyone from teachers to grocery workers to Amazon logistics workers to fast-food workers have agitated or are currently agitating against for material improvements and important protections. And while the central focus of the recent protests has been on policing and white supremacy, the sheer size and intensity of the actions reflect broader discontent and desperation: a rallying cry against unchecked oppression and inequality.

Such action on campuses and off are therefore a railing against structures that devalue life, that alienate, and that serve to reinforce an unjust system. At the center of the “Bodies upon the Gears” speech is a mode of resistance that became linked in the popular imagination with its time: a call for civil disobedience—for sheer numbers—to put a stop to injustice. “There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part!” Savio shouted, “you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus—and you've got to make it stop!” From the General Motors strike of September and October of 2019 (a 29 day strike involving approximately 46,000 people), North Carolina teachers as well as Stop & Shop Workers in New England in 2019, and on and on—and in keeping with a tradition of labor action that stretches throughout industrial history, and that has characterized protest movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy in the 21st century—it seems something was afoot. Now, of course, it’s clear as day. Concessions were won when bodies closed down roads, when they picketed and physically occupied the collective space and imagination. As Savio would have it—and he was far from alone—when the cause is just, the many must take it upon themselves to struggle.

But in an era of social distancing, what does such work look like? One thing is clear: the fact that, as Marx has it, value is derived from labor has never been on fuller display. There for all of us to see is the mechanism of capitalism: that nothing happens without actual bodies to work the machine. Even before the pandemic, American society was sick (quite literally, measures of life-expectancy in the U.S. has been dropping since the middle of the Obama presidency, Trump has, of course, further eroded protections to citizens, and all the while measures of wealth inequality have grown) but now the fever breaks. The accumulation of wealth up top continues more or less unabated (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has accumulated an estimated $24 billion in 2020 so far), stocks have rallied back despite some bumps in the road, while precarity has come to dictate the lives of the rest of us. As so many industries have shuttered, as so many have lost work, and as social safety nets dry up, you see an economy, and a society, teetering on the edge. Never has it been clearer that Americans are dependent on not only their doctors and nurses, but grocers, service workers, factory workers, delivery people, garbage collectors, meat packers, and workers in those industries deemed essential. Across the country—as the danger of infection has made such work hazardous—employees have pushed back: from Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island to Whole Foods and Instacart employees. Perhaps, at last, there’s a growing sense of these relations on the part of the rank and file.

Mario Savio at UC Berkeley

And as the space for activism (as well as commerce and many other aspects of life), by necessity, has moved even further online, it also becomes important to investigate the many connections between the FSM and the counterculture of the 60’s writ large and the development of personal computer technology. Indeed, a similar anarchic, libertarian ethos undergirded both some of the early views of what this technology—especially the internet and eventually social media—was supposed to do and the countercultural left’s call for reclaiming the commons and resisting the machinery of the economy. It’s little wonder that, via thinkers like Stewart Brand and others, there was a cross-pollination between Palo Alto, the birthplace of tech, and Berkeley and Haight Ashbury. Certainly, Apple Corp’s Steve Jobs, or Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, channeled some of those ideas in their early approaches and influenced subsequent leaders, if perhaps somewhat disingenuously (more free market libertarian, perhaps, than socio-anarchic). Early computing, and certainly the early internet, were meant to be free of the constraints of property and authority: a perfect, level playing field where culture could be shared and communicated, and community can be built. In the same way that Savio and his comrades could occupy university buildings and reclaim them to provide their own teach-ins (as they did following the “Bodies Upon The Gears” speech), anyone could engage in whatever way they saw fit (so long as they could get access to the technology, of course).

Nice as those rosy depictions and ideals were, capital and control quickly stifled the “wild west” of the internet the hippie free-for-all, in American fashion, became big business. And in a manner similar to the way that public universities and the idealized vision of the academy, at least in the U.S., were stripped away and became sort of financial trusts and class-reinforcing factories Savio and others railed against, there’s no denying that social media has commodified us.

Students at Berkeley free speech rally

In keeping with the construction of the people being the product, the average social media user is literally a repository of marketing information for corporations (and surveillance information for states and security apperatus) for sale your Facebook account is far from free. “What happened was that numerous enterprises,” according to Humanaesfera, a collective of communist and anarchist philosophers and thinkers particularly concerned with technology, created “visionary and utopian auras…that concealed their capitalist nature.” Facebook, Twitter and other such companies have created what they call “the laborization of existence,” in which “the distinction between work and consumption disappears more and more.” Posting ends up being work that, aside from a few influencers, the poster is not paid for it’s the perfect scam.

It’s what media-theorist and author of Team Human, Douglas Rushkoff, calls a “reversal of figure and ground,” where, instead of digital technology serving the user, algorithms and the logic of internet commodification have made the user serve it. The problems arise, as he puts it, “when we take digital technology and decide that its purpose is to promote the agenda of capitalism.” In this context, Facebook may have promised to bring people together to share authentic lives, but it became profitable by putting them to work and deceptively selling their eyes to advertisers. In this function, it’s designed to become addictive, to promote empty engagement with an engineered false sense of privacy. He notes that the feed was specifically modeled to operate like Las Vegas slot machines: providing just enough reinforcement with the occasional win and flash of lights, while actually exploiting the user and taking their money. Like Savio’s college student, churned out into the economy to be its raw material, social media has turned social interaction to economic activity. This mirrors public education, Rushkoff notes: where once this was meant to be a kind of respite from the grind of industrial life—so 19th century factory workers could read and vote as informed citizens, living fuller lives—it’s now merely an extension of job training. The question at the core of all of this is the same one asked in Berkeley: whom does this machine—that is, these companies, those universities, this very economy—serve? As conservative economists and some liberal ones start weighing the benefits of reopening the economy against the expected loss of life, such questions are particularly salient.

New York City June 4, 2020 photographed by Clay Benskin

The contradictions abound, as what had been a utopia of free thought and cultural exchange ended up corralled, caged, privatized, and turned into a more perfect means of profit and behavior extraction. In part, this leads to what Rushkoff calls “the Facebookification of the other”—rather than finding solidarity or connection, social media highlights divisions, creates out groups, preying on the basic social instincts of we humans. In some ways more frightening than lines of riot police, than outright censorship, this mechanism is hidden in plain view people voluntarily submit, they fall for it. In some ways, then, our current struggles are those of de-commodification: a speech that is free from value.


Stirring Up a Generation / Mario Savio's passionate speeches and mesmerizing delivery became synonymous with the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley -- yet he was uncomfortable with celebrity. ``He was never performing, and he was always genuine,'' a cont

When the 5,000 students gathered on UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza that fall day more than 30 years ago, they had little inkling that the next 32 hours would become historic -- that the arrest of a pamphleteer would escalate into one of the seminal events of the student revolution of the '60s.

Few knew much about a 21-year-old Jesuit-trained student from New York named Mario Savio, who would jump up on the roof of a police car and wonder aloud -- in clear, passionate and, ultimately, persuasive language -- why the university administration, in its zeal to keep political activity away from the campus, was being so obstinate.

In retrospect, the free speech issues seem clear -- whether students should be allowed to engage in political activity on campus. But in 1964, the issues were fractured and messy, as the university kept changing the rules. Mario Savio, the man on top of the car, was one of the first to clarify them -- yet he was one of the first to recognize that the revolution was confusing and needed a great deal of thought and study and commitment.

That sensibility, coupled with a genuine sense of egalitarianism, was the quality that defined Savio. It was the quality that made him a leader -- at the same time that he abhorred the traditional notions of leader and follower.

"What was never in question was his openness to people," said Leon Wofsy, a 75-year-old professor emeritus of immunology at Cal. "I don't think he had a hierarchical bone in his body."

But after the media trained their focus on him, Savio became the FSM, and the FSM was Savio. Ultimately, that label tormented and pained him, and drove him into years of obscurity.

"The media could never see more than rabble following a leader," 56-year-old Berkeley writer Michael Rossman, one of the FSM mainstays, said the other day. "It was ruinous to Mario personally, because it made of him what he was not. What made his authority so powerful was that it was a personal authority without pretensions of leadership. He was convincing because he wrestled visibly with the complexities of feelings and values that everybody was wrestling with.

"The media never got it -- they just restricted him to brief, provocative sound bites with no subordinate clauses. Mario was interested specifically in those subordinate clauses because they contained doubt and complexity."

On that October day in 1964, the police had arrested Jack Weinberg, an organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality who had set up his recruiting table on Sproul Plaza, clearly violating campus rules, antiquated as they may seem today. The cops put him in their patrol car, parked nearby. Before the car could whisk Weinberg to jail, the students suddenly surrounded it and kept the cops and Weinberg captive for a day and a half, the first major salvo in the war launched by the Free Speech Movement.

The FSM was a raw and raucous political movement that lasted less than a year. It was created by hundreds of UC students, it had sprawling committees that held endless meetings but today, even in Berkeley, mention of the FSM can draw blank stares.

Among those who do remember, Savio's name is the one that comes first to mind. Despite the FSM's broad base, in the end it was Savio alone who was lionized by the press, an adulation he never wanted.

"Well before it was clear in America what celebrity meant, he chose to pass," said Tom DeVries, a veteran Bay Area political reporter. "The idea of declining celebrity in our culture is almost inconceivable, yet for him it was a personal and moral decision. When was the last time you saw one of those?"

Savio was a man who reveled in the private life of his family and who loved poetry, philosophy, math, astronomy, physics, gardening and political debate. He was a straight-A student who had graduated at the top of his class of 1,200 students in a New York high school and then managed to maintain top grades during the turmoil of the FSM. He died one month ago at the age of 53, after suffering a heart attack while moving furniture.

Within days, his widow, Lynne Hollander, had received more than 200 letters -- most of them from people who said Savio had drastically changed their lives, helping them muddle through the fractious turmoil of the '60s to forge strong political convictions that still guide them today.

"No student at Berkeley in 1964 was untouched by his passion," one person wrote. "He did so much more than fight the good fight. I learned to give a damn. He'd probably be embarrassed to hear that, but I'm a better person because of him."

"Mario Savio and I spoke face to face exactly twice," another wrote, "and yet his words and his presence made an enormous difference to me and to many of us during those difficult years. He was a glorious human being, a light with profound goodness, honesty, thoughtfulness and kindness. He threw off sparks that caught in some of us and were blessings on all of us."

"The directness, passion and lack of arrogance with which he expressed himself will remain with me the rest of my life," a woman from Southern California wrote.

"I never got arrested. I always left when the police said if we didn't leave they'd start arresting people. I was a middle-class girl from West Los Angeles who was not so brave. But I did wake up politically that year, protested the war in Vietnam and walked the picket lines. . . . I know that those few days/weeks of Mario's influence more than 30 years ago had a hand in creating the person I have become."

Many of those letter writers are likely to be in the audience at noon today when Savio will be the focus of a big public memorial service in Pauley Ballroom on the campus he made famous with the FSM.

It's fitting that his friends and family chose to gather at UC Berkeley on December 8 -- it would have been Savio's 54th birthday. More important, he might say, it is the anniversary of the day, 32 years ago, when the Berkeley faculty, torn by months of acrimonious debate with the UC administration and by student rallies that rocked the campus, voted overwhelmingly to recommend to the university's regents that they shed their mantle of in loco parentis, recognize the students as emerging adults and, taking the specific point at hand, allow political activity on campus.

Born out of the civil rights movement, and brought to life by local chapters of the Congress on Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Dubois clubs and by a UC Berkeley political organization called SLATE, the FSM helped spawn the anti-war movement, which in turn was a factor in convincing Lyndon Johnson not to run for a second term, paving the way for Richard Nixon's election.

The FSM had such a lasting effect on the people who ran it that many of them ended up in public service, either as political organizers, office-holders, professors or writers. And future generations of college students would take for granted their right to speak freely on campus, no matter what the subject.

But Savio himself, some of his friends say, became a tragic figure in the years after the FSM, beset by personal demons, daunted by the disintegration of his first marriage and the plight of his developmentally disabled first son. Above all, though, he was trying to fade back into anonymity, despite having become a household word, an emblem of rebellious youth.

"He was the one everyone talked to during the FSM. He was the one everyone took pictures of," said Berkeley attorney Malcolm Burnstein, an old Savio friend who, 30 years ago, was the FSM's legal adviser. "It broke him. He could not deal with it. He didn't want to be the embodiment of anything. He just wanted to be a person, and no one would ever let him be a person."

Ask his closest friends in the FSM what made Savio the light that attracted not only the moths of the media, but the rapt attention of thousands who listened to him through all-night sit-ins and daylong meetings, and these men and women paint a picture of a man who was able to think deeply over a broad political and philosophical spectrum. Yet he could crystallize and articulate his thoughts in a way that some compare to the lucidity of Martin Luther King Jr.

"The most obvious thing is his charisma as a speaker," said Bettina Aptheker, now a 52-year-old associate professor of women's studies at UC Santa Cruz. "He conveyed tremendous passion and purpose. The other quality he had was that he was not politically affiliated -- he was not connected to the old left, nor was he particularly connected to the new left. He had his own mixture of ideas, partially socialist, partially Thoreau, and he was influenced by King and especially by Gandhi. He came out of his own moral stance and he did what was required for justice to be served. He never swerved from that."

While Savio preferred to think of the FSM as one giant collective, he "was the one who emerged as a leader and spokesman, because he was the one the crowds trusted and responded to," said Mark Kitchell, director of the documentary film, "Berkeley in the Sixties."

"It was partly the ferocity of his passion, because he was so determined, so outraged, so sensitive, but also because of the eloquence of his thoughts and the content of his ideas."

On the stump, Savio would frequently speak extemporaneously, literally reaching out to his audience and imploring them to engage in a dialogue with him. His friends said he was a gifted public speaker -- eschewing notes, he would intuitively repeat phrases for effect, pausing to let an idea sink in, searching out and fastening his gaze on one person or another in the audience.

In one of his first major speeches, he railed against what he said was a "totally dehumanized, totally impersonalized" University of California, and then continued: "Now we stand in lines signing up for courses where we will write papers that never should have been written, we read books that should never have been read, hear lectures that never should have been given. Sometimes you want to strike out at these absurd things."

It's not as if Savio, or the phenomenon of Savio, happened in a vacuum. Berkeley became Berkeley-and-the-FSM in part because of what had already been going on in the late '50s and early '60s in the Bay Area. The Beat Generation had spread its laid-back message far past the borders of North Beach. And in May 1960, San Franciscans, traditionally a liberal lot, were treated to the sight of young demonstrators washed down the steps of San Francisco City Hall by fire hose-wielding cops during protests against the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings.

"There were already some very intensive things going on before the FSM ever came along," Weinberg, now a 56-year-old toxics campaigner for Greenpeace, said the other day. "The civil rights movement was on, there was a series of demonstrations in San Francisco over some of the hotels' hiring practices -- hiring African Americans only for menial positions -- and Mario had just come back from a summer in Mississippi, working with voter registration. So at the end of that summer, you had all those people coming back to Berkeley with a real sense of changing times. UC had invoked those new rules (about political activity) that fall. Given all those things, the university made itself a target."

And Bay Area conservatives, eager for their own target and still wallowing in the national hysteria left by Senator Joe McCarthy and his witch hunt for Communists, branded people like Savio, Weinberg and the other FSMers as "outside agitators, dupes of Communism."

The irony was that Savio was almost the antithesis of a Communist dupe.

"He was extremely American," said Reggie Zelnik, 60, now chairman of the UC Berkeley history department, but 30 years ago a brand-new faculty member, caught up in the fervor of the FSM. "He was completely absorbed by the legal and constitutional questions, and his appeal to everyone that fall was that he really spoke the language of the Bill of Rights and the American justice system. To be sure, there were Trotskyites and anarchists and Communists in the movement, and Mario was touched by those ideologies, but he was really committed to freedom of speech and assembly. . . . It had a much broader appeal than Che Guevara and the class struggle."

Many of his friends said Savio had an almost universal way of looking at things, seeing problems in a large, humanistic context, with a specific political framework. And yet, in an era of confrontation and acrimony, he had an uncharacteristically gentle nature.

He had "opponents, not enemies," his widow said.

The FSM's heyday lasted for only a few months. It made its biggest impression between the October incident with the police car and early December, when Savio made what many consider the pivotal speech of the free speech movement -- a clarion call that persuaded 782 students to stand up and march into Sproul Hall, where they sat until the Alameda County authorities, led by a Deputy District Attorney named Ed Meese, marched them out, and onto buses that took them to the county's Santa Rita jail.

Jackie Goldberg, now a member of the Los Angeles City Council, was one of the FSM leaders sitting on Sproul Plaza as Savio began that speech on December 2:

"Mario would get up there and he'd put things into a larger perspective, give you background, a way to connect the dots, and he would tap into the passions that made you listen and think and then respond passionately about things. He would say, 'I was thinking about this,' and he'd say, 'So I called up Clark Kerr (the president of the UC system) and you know what Kerr said?' So we're all leaning forward, and then Mario would say whatever it was that Kerr told him and then he'd say, 'Can you believe that's what he said?' So you would feel as if you had talked to Clark Kerr."

That day, Savio launched into a speech that included the following: "There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies on the gears, and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus. And you've got to make it stop."

After that, Goldberg said, "Many people, myself included, who weren't quite sure about going into (Sproul Hall) that day, mainly out of the sense that it was futile, well, that speech just picked me right up off the ground and took me into the building. By the time he was done with that, it didn't matter if we won or lost."

The "machine is odious" speech permanently fixed Savio in the headlights of fame. Every time he turned around, there was a camera. Newspapers wrote about him taking out a marriage license, getting married, getting a draft notice. The directors of a Wall Street brokerage firm flew him to New York, where "they spent an hour or more in their paneled boardroom pumping him for answers," according to Ray Colvig, the longtime public information officer for UC Berkeley, who retired five years ago.

The New York Times, headlining him a "A Rebel on Campus," did a long feature story. The newspaper of record dubbed him "the leader of the Free Speech Movement" and it stuck. And the FBI followed him around from press conference to press conference -- a latter-day badge of honor.

In February 1965, LIFE magazine talked to Savio. Asked by LIFE to explain the phenomenon of Mario Savio, he said, simply, "I am not a political person. My involvement in the Free Speech Movement is religious and moral. . . . I don't know what made me get up and give that first speech. I only know I had to. What was it Kierkegaard said about free acts? They're the ones that, looking back, you realize you couldn't help doing." LIFE loved it and gave him a big spread.


Mario Savio dies free speech activist

Mario Savio, the obscure UC-Berkeley philosophy student whose voice became the clarion of the Free Speech Movement that kicked off a generation of youth and counterculture rebellion, died Wednesday at a Sonoma County hospital.

Mr. Savio, 53, had been in a coma and on life support at Columbia Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol since suffering a heart attack Saturday night.

Mr. Savio, who had a history of heart trouble, was surrounded by family and friends when he died at 5:10 p.m. He never regained consciousness, and his family allowed doctors to disconnect life support, said Sharon Enos, chief nursing supervisor.

His political activism started when he traveled to the South during the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. Mr. Savio was still going strong during the just-completed and unsuccessful fight against Proposition 209.

"In the '60s, he was a powerful symbol of how an ordinary person could stand up and make history," said state Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Santa Monica, a onetime fellow radical.

"He symbolized the possibilities in all of us, to resist becoming cogs in somebody's machine."

Todd Gitlin, a fellow Berkeley activist and now a New York University professor who has chronicled the protest movements of the 1960s, said Mr. Savio had returned from the South radicalized.

"He went to Mississippi where he encountered racial horrors, and he returned to Berkeley where he found an establishment that did not allow political expression on campus," Gitlin said. "He was a pure, Jeffersonian, small "d' democrat. He believed that speaking the truth, clearly and well, was the peak of democratic citizenship."

Forced hotels to hire blacks

Mr. Savio was arrested at the Sheraton Palace civil rights demonstration in March 1964, the culmination of a movement that compelled the San Francisco Hotel Association to hire blacks in good jobs.

It was the beginning, Mr. Savio said at a 1995 rally, "of affirmative action before the name caught on."

But it was not until Dec. 2, 1964, that Mr. Savio emerged as the symbol of the generational movement that had as its rallying cry the admonition not to trust anyone over 30.

Mr. Savio vaulted into the nation's consciousness when a festering dispute over political activity on the Berkeley campus erupted into full-scale war between the generations.

At a sit-in to protest the arrest of sometime-graduate student Jack Weinberg for distributing political literature on campus, Mr. Savio and 782 others were arrested.

The sit-in followed a protest rally during which Mr. Savio told baby boomers they had to change the world.

"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part," he said.

"And you've got to put your bodies on the gears, and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus. And you've got to make it stop."

Movement spread

Students, awakened to a political consciousness that was to change the nation, went about throwing their bodies on the gears of the Establishment, sparking the Free Speech Movement that polarized the Berkeley campus and spread the spark of rebellion to universities throughout the nation.

It was a movement that in the short term led to the firing of UC Chancellor Clark Kerr, in the mid term to the political ascension of a B-movie actor named Ronald Reagan, and in the long term to the end of the war in Vietnam.

As "The Movement" grew, it acquired new voices and new leaders, and Mr. Savio dropped off the political radar screens for the media and almost everyone else except the

In a 1995 ruling involving Examiner reporter Seth Rosenfeld's long fight for access to FBI documents on the bureau's involvement with the FSM, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the FBI had been investigating Mr. Savio long after the FSM had achieved its ends and people were saying anything they wanted on campus.

In a time when many equated any anti-establishment behavior as Communist or worse, the court said even the FBI had concluded that Mr. Savio "had negligible contacts with Communists."

The investigations continued, the court suggested, because of Mr. Savio's "contemptuous attitude instead of his possible subversiveness."

Native of Queens

Mr. Savio was born and reared in the same working class Queens neighborhood as former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and fictional TV character Archie Bunker. His Sicilian father supported the family as a sheet metal worker.

Mr. Savio presided over the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine at Queens College and helped build a laundry near Taxco, Mexico, before teaching in a Mississippi freedom school and returning to Berkeley.

After the FSM, he was arrested again in 1966 protesting an armed forces recruiting table on the Berkeley campus and ran for the state Senate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

He was divorced from his wife, FSM leader Suzanne Goldberg, who kept custody of their two children. He later married another FSM veteran, Lynne Hollander, with whom he had a son.

After dropping out of Berkeley, Mr. Savio taught at an alternative school and worked at a bookstore in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.

He earned a bachelor's degree in physics, summa cum laude, from San Francisco State in 1984 and the next year obtained a master's degree.

Shunning publicity and suffering periodic bouts with depression, he re-emerged briefly in 1984 to protest U.S. involvement in Nicaragua and the next year to protest apartheid in South Africa.

"Moral and successful'

He also appeared at the 20th anniversary of the FSM and told former colleagues that the movement had affected him deeply.

"Through two decades of some joy, but marked with much sadness and personal tragedy, it has remained for me a brilliant moment when, as a friend put it, we were "both moral and successful,' " he said.

Mr. Savio had taught at Sonoma State University since 1990, lecturing in mathematics, philosophy and the university's intensive learning program, which assists students in making the transition to college.

Mr. Savio re-emerged politically again in 1994 to condemn Proposition 187, which limited public benefits to illegal immigrants, as a "know-nothing fascist law."

He was even more active opposing this year's Proposition 209, known by its backers as the California Civil Rights Initiative, which scraps most affirmative action programs in California.

Ironically, even on the day of his death, students at several California university campuses were returning to the streets to mount protests against the measure, which passed Tuesday.

Mr. Savio's opposition to Prop. 209 ran deep, said Laura X, a longtime friend from FSM days who runs the Women's History Library in Berkeley. She compared him to Frederick Douglass, the eloquent 19th century abolitionist who proposed in 1848 that women be given the vote.

"He was our Frederick Douglass, not only in his oratory, but in being equally good on race and gender issues before anyone, before there was a women's movement," she said.

"Mario always was very conscious about women being put down in the Free Speech Movement."

"Strong in the streets'

At a rally last year urging students to confront foes of affirmative action, Mr. Savio's ponytail had turned silver but his words remained golden to supporters of affirmative action.

Calling students once more to the barricades, Mr. Savio said, "We'll be strong in the streets if we don't win at the ballot box. That's guaranteed. The graybeards will join with the young ones. My children are sufficiently along that I am willing to do it again. I don't want to do it, but I'm willing."

Mr. Savio is survived by his wife, Lynne Hollander his sons, Stefan of Vermont, Nadav of San Francisco and Daniel of Sebastopol his father, Joseph of Covina and his brother, Tom of Pasadena.

A memorial is planned on Mr. Savio's birthday, Dec. 8, at UC-Berkeley. That is also the anniversary of the UC Academic Senate's 1964 resolution affirming students' right to participate in political activity on campus.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Savio Family Fund, c / o ILE, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA 94928, or to the Camp Winnarainbow Scholarship Fund, 1301 Henry St., Berkeley, CA 94709.&lt


December 10, 2014

Mario Savio, a New York philosophy student and leader of the Free Speech Movement, during a victory rally on the University of California campus in Berkeley on December 9, 1964 (AP Photo)

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This essay is adapted from Tom Hayden&rsquos foreword to The Essential Mario Savio: Speeches and Writings That Changed America, edited by Robert Cohen and published this past September by the University of California Press.

It is a worthy time to study and treasure the eloquent speeches of Mario Savio&mdash&ldquofreedom&rsquos orator,&rdquo as the historian Robert Cohen rightly calls him.

I didn&rsquot know Mario well, mainly because of our separate geographic orbits, but our paths were intertwined. As a student editor from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I hitchhiked to Berkeley in the summer of 1960, where I stayed in an apartment belonging to activists from Slate, the campus political party that was demanding a voice for students stifled by university paternalism. Slate activists were among those who had been hosed down on the rotunda steps of San Francisco&rsquos City Hall after protesting the House Committee on Un-American Activities that spring. The FBI opened a file on me simply for writing an editorial in The Michigan Daily supporting the student critics. I remember interviewing the aptly named Alex Sherriffs, the aggressive University of California vice chancellor who wanted to shut down the tiny Bancroft strip where I was first leafleted by that friendly student who found me a place to stay. In a memo at the time, Sherriffs called the Slate activists &ldquooffice seekers and publicity hounds&hellipmisfits, malcontents and other politically oriented individuals who do not conform to the normal political activity in the university community.&rdquo My kind of people.

This was the dawn of the 1960s. A countercommunity was forming, and the simple idea of student rights was infectious. The Slate leaders pushed me to create a similar campus political party in Ann Arbor, which I helped to do that fall known as Voice, it became the first chapter of the national SDS (Students for a Democratic Society).

Our strategy in SDS was to excite students nationally through the model of students putting their lives on the line down South. It worked. In late 1961, I was a Freedom Rider in Georgia and was beaten and expelled from McComb, Mississippi, while writing a pamphlet about a voting-rights campaign. By spring semester in 1964, Berkeley activists&mdashMario among them&mdashwere copying the Southern sit-ins against Jim Crow lunch counters with their own sit-in against racist hiring at San Francisco&rsquos Sheraton Palace Hotel. That experience propelled Mario to volunteer in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in McComb, where he was also subjected to the radicalizing violence I had experienced in 1961.

The links kept being forged. In June 1962, the first SDS convention, in Port Huron, Michigan, adopted a lengthy statement calling for students to forge a participatory democracy based on the direct-action model of SNCC (the black-led Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the radical notion that students could be &ldquoagents of social change&rdquo and universities the laboratories of reform. That abstract Port Huron vision was realized when the Free Speech Movement (FSM) burst into history in 1964. Mario himself spoke favorably of participatory democracy, and activists like Jackie Goldberg carried the Port Huron Statement in their backpacks.

I lived in Berkeley later (1968&ndash70), during the post-FSM years, when the rhetoric was more revolutionary. The campus was often choked by tear gas, student strikes were frequent, and armed Black Panthers sold Mao&rsquos Little Red Book on the Sproul steps. The early utopian moment was clouded by internal strife, and the community was anything but blessed. During the People&rsquos Park march of 1969, I witnessed sheriff&rsquos deputies coldly kill one bystander and blind another with buckshot while they sat on a rooftop overlooking Telegraph Avenue. This lethal moment came just four and a half years after the FSM&rsquos rise, and one year before the murders at Kent State and Jackson State. The Berkeley free-speech area was looking like a war zone. The idealistic movement that first gave Mario his magical voice&mdashafter having grown up with a stuttering shyness&mdashnow left him stranded and alone amid its fragmentation and demise.

Looking back, I have wondered: were we merely pawns in a larger game? That&rsquos the troubling conclusion of Subversives, a 2012 book by former Daily Californian reporter Seth Rosenfeld, based on FBI documents that were finally divulged by federal court order many years after the events in question (some of which were published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002). Altogether, the files came to over 200,000 pages, including thousands from an FBI secret counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO.

Thanks to Rosenfeld&rsquos dogged Freedom of Information Act demands, we know that the FSM was targeted by FBI and CIA operations intended to improve the political fortunes of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, both of whom rose to political power on promises to crush Berkeley radicalism. Mario was demonized as a virtual Fidel Castro, with the Berkeley hills as his Sierra Maestra. Here is J. Edgar Hoover from a 1966 memo: &ldquoAgitators on other campuses take their lead from activities which occur at Berkeley. If agitational activity at Berkeley can be effectively curtailed, this could set up a chain reaction which will result in the curtailment of such activities on other campuses throughout the United States.&rdquo

This was a full decade before Congress held its explosive inquiry, known as the Church Committee hearings (after the committee&rsquos chair, Senator Frank Church), which uncovered widespread and illegal spying and disruption against domestic protest in the United States. Nothing revealed in those hearings could fully match what happened in Berkeley in the 1960s. Hoover&rsquos FBI, along with UC Regent Edwin Pauley and former CIA director John McCone, plotted to uncover alleged &ldquoReds&rdquo on the Berkeley faculty remove the university president, Clark Kerr conspire with Reagan, a onetime informant and alter the course of American history. All these deeds, of course, were far beyond the bureau&rsquos legal mandate. The FBI could get away with its crimes because of the climate of opinion in those Cold War times.

Led by Hoover, the political elite looked at &ldquocampus unrest&rdquo through a Cold War lens, completely missing the rise of millions of idealistic young people with their demands for relevance, justice, equal treatment, peace and a voice in the decisions affecting their lives. If this was only a Cold War misunderstanding, perhaps the dreadful mistake could be forgiven. But there was another agenda that began at Berkeley as well: after being elected California governor in 1966 to &ldquoclean up&rdquo Berkeley, Reagan quickly imposed tuition for the first time in the history of the university. The conservative attack on &ldquopermissive&rdquo UC officials and &ldquocommunist&rdquo professors shielding the &ldquospoiled brats&rdquo was also an assault on the liberal tradition of public-sector institutions. The current era of privatization and neoliberalism was born in Berkeley as a countermovement to the &rsquo60s.

We have not recovered, but America&rsquos progressives have survived to fight back. It took three decades, but UC Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien wrote in 1996 that Mario was &ldquoa gifted leader whose passionate conviction and eloquence inspired a generation of students across America. His name is forever linked with one of our nation&rsquos most cherished freedoms&mdashthe right to freedom of expression. We are proud that he was part of the community at the University of California.&rdquo The Sproul steps were renamed for Mario, too. This year, in memory of the fiftieth anniversary of the FSM, the university is distributing 8,000 copies of former Berkeley graduate student Robby Cohen&rsquos comprehensive Savio biography, Freedom&rsquos Orator, as suggested reading for students and faculty. The FSM is being acknowledged as a leading example of America&rsquos own democracy movement.

It is difficult not to be cynical about this latter-day praise. Many of Mario&rsquos worst fears have come to pass&mdashfor example, in the skyrocketing tuition and room-and-board, now reaching $35,000 per year for in-state students and more than $50,000 for nonresidents. In recent years, UC police have pepper-sprayed student tuition protesters and shut down tents meant for Occupy Wall Street protests (the tents were deemed to have no protection under freedom-of-expression rulings). Perhaps the United States needs to brandish the FSM&rsquos heritage in the new Cold War competition with China and its rigid system of thought control.

But I think American history provides a different lesson: again and again, the persecuted radicals of one era are venerated as prophets and saints in another. Consider Tom Paine, whose rhetoric ignited the American Revolution, but who was castigated as a scoundrel by the Revolution&rsquos elite and buried without honor by a small handful of friends. John Adams denounced Paine as &ldquoa mongrel between pig and puppy, begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf.&rdquo

I sometimes saw Mario after his media stardom had declined, after he spent a period in a psychiatric hospital coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (which afflicted movement veterans, not simply GIs), and after UC rejected his application to resume his studies. When I saw him last, it seemed to me he was in a fitting phase of a noble life. Mario was teaching at Sonoma State University, focused mainly on remedial work with students of color, in a program called the Intensive Learning Experience. Immigrants were being scapegoated for the state&rsquos woes. It was the early 1990s, and California was cutting its higher-education budgets while building one of the world&rsquos largest prison systems. Mario joined those fights, for what was free speech if universities were unaffordable and inaccessible to working people?

Many are unaware that Mario was returning to his roots among those young students at Sonoma. During 1963, the year before the San Francisco hotel sit-ins, Mario spent a summer immersed in a Catholic antipoverty project in central Mexico. There, he naturally applied the basic techniques of community organizing, even before his training by the Mississippi summer project. Listening to villagers recount their needs, Mario and his student band began the construction of a community laundry where the poor could wash their clothes during Mexico&rsquos dry season.

That summer experience planted in Mario a lifelong connection to the Third World, from Mexican peasants to Mississippi sharecroppers, to his resistance to the US military interventions in Central America. The circle was closed in his organizing against California&rsquos anti-immigrant initiative, Proposition 187. When the burden of confronting anti-immigrant hysteria was falling mainly on Latinos in border states like California and Arizona, Mario was one of those few on the white radical left standing with them. He wanted to rearrange America&rsquos vision, from a nation caught up in an East-West Cold War framework to one centered in the Americas, from South to North. Mario realized clearly very early on what only a few&mdashCuba&rsquos José Martí, The Nation&rsquos Carey McWilliams and today&rsquos Juan González of Pacifica&mdashhad realized: that our ultimate destiny lies here in &ldquoOur America.&rdquo Mario was a prophet of our permanent destiny in the Americas.

What does it mean to declare that he was &ldquofreedom&rsquos orator&rdquo? His philosophical and mathematical training prepared him to communicate in plain but lucid language, rich with references to past great thinkers. His podium, however, was on the top of a police car or from the Sproul steps. Mario did not deliver &ldquothe Word&rdquo from a mountaintop, or dictate official dogma for listening devotees to memorize, go forth and spread. He was given the gift of speech&mdashthat is, he stopped stuttering&mdashby the movement community. In return, he gave them the gift of being heard, of thinking aloud, for the first time. Amid the pandemonium of awakening all around him, Mario could sift the good arguments from the bad, engage the crowd in dialogue, and crystallize whatever consensus was needed at the moment. It&rsquos almost unfortunate that his most famous speech&mdashcalling on the students to place their bodies on the gears and stop the machine&mdashwas more like a call to battle than the usual Socratic speeches he gave almost daily at mass meetings. Oratory implies a solo performance a speech by Mario was an exercise in reasoning out loud, essentially unrehearsed, yet perfectly clear in the end. It was a participatory oratory that left the listeners better informed and empowered. In later times, with the movement gone, many of his speeches and articles were sharply reasoned and on the cutting edge, but lacked the exciting vitality that comes when many minds are in motion at once.

Mario was an original thinker, not a stylist. He attacked the premises of the Cold War before others did. He went on to challenge the neoconservative assumptions about the &ldquoend of history&rdquo after the Cold War was over. Perhaps his most interesting and still-relevant speculations were about Marxism and liberation theology, leading him to identify with what he called &ldquosecularized liberation theology.&rdquo How did he arrive there? First, Mario and the New Left could not abide the traditional liberalism of many in the Democratic Party. Liberalism had reached a compromise with corporate capitalism that delivered a welfare state, but within the context of a Cold War corporate state dominated by distant elites. Liberals, at least as we knew them, were late to join the civil-rights movement, had rejected the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964, opposed the Cuban Revolution and supported the Vietnam War.

That seemed to leave only varieties of Marxism, an important tradition without deep roots in the American past. Mario acknowledged that Marxism was essential to being politically literate, yet he hesitated to embrace it philosophically. His reasoning was that &ldquoMarxism, even at its most poetic, is a kind of economism.&rdquo The thesis of Marxism, he believed, was that the very workings of the capitalist system led to mass immiseration, which in turn led to an oppositional consciousness.

But capitalism, spurred by the New Deal and the threat of socialism, developed a white-collar middle class represented by the likes of Mario and myself. As the opening sentence of the Port Huron Statement declared: &ldquoWe are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.&rdquo This was hardly The Communist Manifesto. Shortly thereafter, the FSM began issuing its grievances against the &ldquomultiversity,&rdquo in which students were treated like IBM punch cards. These were not narrow, privileged middle-class sentiments alone, since the movements were aligned with struggles for voting rights, farmworker rights and &ldquothe other America&rdquo brought to light by Michael Harrington in his groundbreaking 1962 book. But we wanted something more than the New Deal. We also realized that any immiseration of workers under capitalism could drive them far to the right.

Whereas the Marxist model produced an inherent sense that history was on our side, Mario instead argued that &ldquowe have to be prepared on the basis of our moral insight to struggle even if we do not know that we are going to win.&rdquo He believed the antidote lay in having spiritual values, and was therefore inspired by the rise of liberation theology in Latin America. His skeptical nature, however, required a &ldquosecularized liberation theology.&rdquo It is only my conjecture that the strains of Catholic and Greek philosophy in his intellectual upbringing perhaps led him to an alternative to the dialectic, a deep belief that we all might dwell in a spiritual realm of truth and beauty.

For whatever mix of reasons, during the immigrant-rights struggles in the 1990s, Mario pointed out that the Catholic Church was in the forefront, and noted that there &ldquois probably no other institution in the United States in which there is a heavier representation of righteously working-class people than in&hellipthat church. We ought to be talking to them as well as to one another.&rdquo

One can only imagine what Mario would have thought of the rise of Pope Francis, who seems to be the left wing of the world in 2014. As important as the pope&rsquos moral denunciations of capitalism are, even more interesting is when he said, &ldquoIf someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?&rdquo In those few simple words, Pope Francis was subverting the whole doctrine of an infallible center. Marxism had long since experienced the same loss of doctrinal infallibility, opening a chapter of history that Mario would have delighted in.

Equally, he would have delighted in the emergence of the Dreamers movement on UC campuses and in communities across the country&mdashyoung immigrants born in the United States of undocumented parents, acting in the spirit of the militant civil-rights movement, demanding their constitutional rights and willing to face deportation.

He would also have delighted in the Occupy movement as a harbinger of the next wave of economic populism. He would salute those who fight against soaring tuition and debt. He would have reveled in a dialogue with these new young American rebels. He would have exchanged reading lists with them. He would have happily joined their ranks.

He has been missed. Thanks to the Free Speech Movement&rsquos fiftieth anniversary, however, Mario&rsquos challenging words can be felt among us once again, sermons and parables for an unpredictable dawn.

Tom Hayden Tom Hayden, the former California state assemblyman and senator, author, lifelong activist, and Nation editorial board member, died in Santa Monica on October 23, 2016. He was the author of more than 20 books, including most recently Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement (Yale) and Listen, Yankee! Why Cuba Matters (Seven Stories).


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