Interview with Allen Ginsberg (mid 90s?)
Q: What has your involvement with anarchist-related movements been?
A: I was a member of the Wobblies. Gary Snyder and I visited the old Wobbly Hall often, and of course I was active with a group called "the living theatre" who were anarchist pacifists. Later I worked with plenty of peacenik things with David Dellinger and the war resister's league and I spent a lot of time with Abbie Hoffman's activities
Q: What was your work with Hoffman centered around the YIPPIES?
A: I was a founder of the YIPPIES but have nothing to do with what they became. It was originally formed as an ad-hoc committee to present an alternative political party, which was a joke of kinds. The YIPPIES were a paraphrase of the YIPSELS, a socialist organization of the 1920s that my mother belonged to. The YIPPIES were basically an anarchist organization… we proposed a pig for the 1968 elections as our candidate. Our purpose was to project some kind of rock n' roll enthusiasm, Dada anarchism, humor and festival of life. We continued as an action oriented group until 1972 when a group of pseudo-anarchists infiltrated by the police (one of the leaders is now the owner of High Times) denounced Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and claimed they were taking over the organization so we said "Fine" and dropped out.
Q: What is your impression of contemporary anarchist movements, particularly the energy coming from Tompkins Sq. Park?
A: I find a lot of the neighborhood little anarchist groups to be so arrogant! The people at the park tend to be disrespectful towards everyone. There is this church across the street which spends a lot of energy feeding people, providing shelters for homeless and helping with stuff at squats. But when they try to have a sane community meeting, a lot of people who try to speak are shouted down as being "middle class scum" and no one really knows what the ambiguous term "yuppie" means… and so people think it might be them. One can't have anarchist communities like this. The point of anarchism is voluntary community. You can't have voluntary community when one is creating paranoia. All these kids are doing is attacking members of the community and generating fear. This kind of youthful idiocy is similar to the psychology of the police. In fact, it is this kind of destructive action which ruins the prospects of anarchism and negates the potentiality of it being taken seriously. It is the brainwashing slogans and violence like this (which has probably occurred in all "radical groups") -- the egocentric consistency of an absolute position and bottom line, which leads to stuff like Stalinism. If one can't talk to these people now, imagine trying to work with them if the had stronger power positions! The means and the ends have to be the same.
Q: How far do you go with this delicate equipoise of means and ends?
A: They have to be the same. Not only on a philosophical level but practically
speaking, they must be the same. Keep in mind that there is no point of any
ideological purity which can't be implemented. If it can't be done, what's the
point of the fantasy? What's useful in fantasy is that which can be put into
practice; a blueprint that one can work with, relate to, and act on. So, any
ideological extremism except on a level of poetry-- an imaginist dream with
no expectations and no guilt-- which excludes actuality, is hypocritical and
schizophrenic. Now this brings us to a tragedy. When people insist on what they
call an "ideological purity", when it's only pure egotism -- a progressive
assertion of their will power, and temporarily ideal reality, it comes down
to regression. Most ideological purity is not gentle; nor generous; nor accommodating…
it's like Hitler or Stalin, a projection of egocentric power.
Anyway, if it's not workable it's not workable. Workable doesn't mean compromise, workable means workable. If one is proposing something that is not workable, then what good is it? Then one is just spouting a lot of shit which is going to do nothing but confuse people, instead of giving tenuous situations the possibility of being alleviated. Just about any situations can be workable. One just has to relate to the actual situation and not an exaggeration or myth. A great example of this kind of bullshit is the Weathermen of the days of Rage in Chicago '69. They are a perfect example of pseudo-revolutionary egocentric means of action by so called visionaries. The means weren't realistic or practical and ended up doing nothing but splitting up communities.
Q: Who would you model as having a coherent understanding and sound implementation of means and ends, and their equipollent importance?
A: The left during the 60s and later suffered a great deal from "ideological
purity" which was a mask for ideological superiority -- a mask for individual
power trips -- which is the same thing that has been happening in this country
generation after generation.
As an alternative to this, one would look at some of the shit that's been going on in Czechoslovakia. They are explicitly non-violent and have relegated little to no leadership in their communities. A lot of anarchists are there-- particularly in the hippie counter-culture -- who are really revolutionary. And the environment under which these students organize-- it's incredible. They're a good model.
Q: What revolutionary aspirations do you consider contingent for sustainable change in the US in the 1990s?
A: Nonviolence. Each individual checking him/herself for their own actions.
If people aren't responsible and aware of their actions, they are going to have
a structure imposed on them from above, or outside. Secondly, glasnost here
and now in the United States, but beyond the institutional realm of glasnost
and into a personal realm of openness. For all those people who are entrapped
by their own projections, I would still recommend just as I did in '68, almost
universal experimentation with psychedelics -- which I think are the psychological
equivalent of the nuclear bomb, except in the opposite direction. I would set
up the environments that are conducive to centering in nature, with guidance
and tending to everyone involved.
It is clear to me that a democracy can't be obtained by an imposed structure… I don't even know if it is possible to have a just society anymore… the global situation must be acknowledged. It is necessary for people to publicly admit that the situation of civilization is hopeless. It's like an alcoholic who must admit his or her situation in order to change. We are going to have to ask for help-- from each other-- to get through this one. The American attitude of everyone for themselves is going to have to collapse. This global admission is pre-requisite to action. Strangely enough, seemingly moribund admission has always been empowering.
So psychologically, I've outlined three main steps that need to be taken. What we have had in America has been just the opposite. Ronald Reagan with the false John Wayne image of "stand up tall" and "let's make believe we won the Vietnam war with Rambo" and the whole myth of American superiority. We have this psychotic governmental philosophy for international policies. This international chauvinism is totally out of place, especially as we're a trillion dollars in debt, the largest debtor nation in the world.
Centralization, as I pointed out a long time ago, leads to monoculture and dinosaurism. Maximized variety of life forms has a much stronger survival capacity, and is therefore more ecological. Decentralization is necessary but a difficult task, and considering the world's growing population, it may be impossible. Aside from decentralized economic and political systems it is important to change energy and transportation sources from the centralized nuclear/petro-chemical industries to mass transit and renewable clean energies.
From: Anarchism and Revolution in Amerikkka, an interview with Allen Ginsberg. in Drunken Boat #1 (this was an oversized anarchist journal edited by Max Blechman, I bought my copy I think around 1994ish?- gotta think Allen would have hated that title.)
I looked for copyright info on this but did not find anything. If you represent the estates of Ginsberg or Blechman and want this removed, please let me know (phil at philblank dot net) and I will remove it.