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Jerry Rubin’s Do It!

4,358 words

Jerry Rubin
Do It! Scenarios of the Revolution
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970

Much to my surprise, Jerry Rubin has exceeded my expectations. To some, he was the voice of a generation. To others, he’s a symbol of everything that went wrong with some of the Boomers, and in particular the faults of the hippy-dippy counterculture. I had some preconceptions after finding a copy of his political testament Do It! I figured there would be self-indulgent drivel, sophomoric subversion, and 150-proof culture-distortion, all as stale as a fifty-year-old bag of granola.

Do It! indeed abounds with these things, and then some. Still, believe it or not, this steaming pile of counterculture wangst actually has its moments! After he pushed the envelope too far with the shock value, it turned into shlock. It’s hilarious in many places, mostly unintentional, like a B movie that’s so bad it’s good. One certainly can’t find a laugh a minute in Das Kapital, much less in anything that cultural Marxist dweebs like Max Horkheimer or Theodor Adorno wrote. Pinkos don’t have much sense of humor, other than rare exceptions like Slavoj Žižek. Jerry Rubin was a different kind of funny entirely — a clown who mistook himself for a hero.

He was a professional activist whose signature style often included street theater. He also brought that shtick into his many courtroom appearances, most notably by turning the “Chicago 7” trial into a three-ring circus. Despite all his posing, later on, he made the transition from a pioneering yippie [1] to the archetypal yuppie. Eventually, he changed with the times, going from the worst of the 1960s to the worst of the 1970s. He traded out the dope-smoking and revolutionary antics for nutty encounter groups and MLM pyramid schemes. (Did I mention that he embodied everything wrong with the worst of the Boomers?) Rubin became a multimillionaire during the 1980s — apparently, those rackets worked out pretty well for him — but he kept up the radical chic pose.

Preliminary impressions

The book is a rather attractive one, professionally done and including lots of pictures and typeface gimmicks that add to the reading experience. That much was Quentin Fiore’s unique approach [2]. The illustrations are somewhat reminiscent of R. Crumb’s comics from that era, though not as stylized.

The front matter is fairly revealing. An opening blurb begins, “To Nancy, Dope, Color TV, and Violent Revolution!” After a brief bio is an exhortation: “READ THIS BOOK STONED!” Sorry, Jerry, no can do. It’s bad enough that I’m a Mormon who drinks beer like it’s going out of style. (Then again, Colorado is merely a road trip away — hmm.) Immediately after the blurb, it lists the copyright holder as the Social Education Foundation, whatever the hell that was. Is it just me, or does the name sound like a half-baked front group?

Then, it gives the publisher’s address in the core of the Big Apple, at Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue. That’s right under the shadow of the Empire State Building, and about as mainstream and corporate as it gets. What? The book probably would’ve been too far out in the left field even for Progress Publishers in Moscow. However, the author did not — as one might expect from this highly subversive book — have to go to some subterranean indie press in the Bay Area, such as the type he praised briefly in one of the final chapters. Pitching a manuscript is no easy task [3], but Simon and Schuster promoted his highly inflammatory writings, after which it became an unofficial Bible of the counterculture.

Well, that would (ahem) mean that The Establishment endorsed his revolutionary messages, rewarded him with a book deal, and signal-boosted his ideology to stores across the country. At the very least, they didn’t have a serious problem with his views, or Do It! never would’ve emerged from their slush pile to see the light of day. To be more specific, this time period coincided with a changing of the guard in the halls of power, when The Establishment was becoming The System. The newcomers enthusiastically promoted their own people — Bob’s your uncle! — and this friendly reception also applied within the publishing industry. Feel free to read between the lines and interpret that as cynically as you like.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Jerry Rubin was positioned to become a particularly important proxy of The System. He was more like one of the troublemakers whose role is to help foment a revolution. If that comes to pass, as Yuri Bezmenov described [4], these types will get whacked after outliving their usefulness.

After the blurb is an introduction by Rubin’s buddy, the serial rapist Eldridge Cleaver. He considered his loathsome crimes to be a form of political protest, and meanwhile griped incessantly about being a victim of society. (For ages, this perp’s prison memoirs have been used to demoralize countless white sociology students.) It begins with a weird rant in favor of American Indian supremacy. Then Cleaver talks about his Presidential campaign, in which he chose Rubin for his Vice Presidential running mate. Hitting his stride with his signature bellyaching:

Oppressed, exploited, and colonized people are colonized, oppressed, and exploited on all levels. Intellectually, Politically, Economically, Emotionally, Sexually, and Spiritually we are oppressed, exploited, and colonized.

No wonder Leftist professors promoted this oxygen thief as a skintellectual [5]; he certainly had a knack for imitating their postcolonial blather. After that is probably the most thorough “down with the pigs” rant ever written.

Jerry Rubin, in a collection of vignettes

The first chapter, “Child of Amerika,” describes how he used to be square. He even loved Adlai Stevenson! Then his parents died and he began caring for his younger brother. After that, he got radicalized and shed his former loyalties for some new ones:

I went to Oberlin College for a year, graduated from the University of Cincinnati, spent 1 1/2 years in Israel, and started graduate school at Berkeley.

I dropped out.

I dropped out of the White Race and the Amerikan nation.

I hate to be too much of a cynic here, but maybe he would’ve been happier if he’d stayed in Israel. I have difficulty imagining him hating his ancestral homeland and wishing to subvert it. (He didn’t even have a weird spelling for it.) However, if he’d attempted his troublemaking antics there, they would’ve kicked him out, no questions asked. Say what you will about Israel, they certainly have a sensible streak that’s sorely lacking in the USA.

At the end of the chapter is a two-page illustration with a large caption making clear his final thoughts: “Fuck Amerika.” Ooh, what a rebel! More seriously, one of the good points about Do It! is that it’s so unfiltered. Leftist writings often feature heavy Marxist terminology, postmodern mumbo-jumbo, or double talk to obscure the full Agenda or make it sound nicer. On the other hand, Rubin wrote plainly, without jargon decipherable only by initiates. The simple style is accessible even to a hippie reading it stoned, as recommended. One can see what was going in the author’s mind as clearly as if an X-ray machine had taken pictures of the worms eating into his brain.

The second chapter is called “Elvis Presley Killed Ike Eisenhower,” about puritanical squareness being defeated by rock music. The next vignette is spicier. Rubin was among a tour group [6] of 84 “Amerikan” students who had transited through Czechoslovakia to visit Cuba illegally. (This was probably the free trip sponsored by the Cuban Federation of University Students and the Ad Hoc Student Committee for Travel to Cuba in December 1962 [7].) They must’ve been considered VIPs, since Che Guevara Himself [8] cleared his busy calendar to meet with them, lecturing for hours. Rubin probably was one of many draft dodgers in the subversion tour. Nonetheless, he describes the young poseurs beginning to fantasize about joining St. Che as bearded, rifle-toting guerrillas exporting revolution throughout Latin America.

Animated by this Walter Mitty dream, they didn’t want to go back to the USA and its “political bullshit.” Aww, shucks! It’s too bad that they didn’t stay in Cuba permanently to enjoy the benefits of communism, but apparently their treasonous skills as Agents of Influence were needed elsewhere. Pepping them up about returning to the belly of the beast, St. Che told them: “You are fighting the most important fight of all, in the center of the battle.” Damn! Should this book be called Chicken Soup For the Radicalinski Soul, or what?

Mopery at Berkeley [9]

You can buy The World in Flames: The Shorter Writings of Francis Parker Yockey here. [10]

Then a vignette follows about his early days as a professional activist during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. When Jack Weinberg became “a prisoner of the pigs,” a mob of students surrounded the cop car, leading to a ten-hour standoff which the kids won. Negotiations were to follow, but that turned out to be a stalling tactic, so they staged a massive sit-in of the administration building. How ironic it is, then, that Leftists more recently made universities so hostile to freedom of speech, including at Berkeley [11].

“Become a 100-Foot-Tall Nonstudent” opens describing how after the above stunt, hordes of counterculture types from around the country swarmed the university. They even formed an economic niche:

You could always get by selling dope. Or you could hawk the Barb on the weekend and make enough money for the rest of the week. There were always guilty professors to panhandle. And some people started handicraft industries. . .

He glowingly describes the effect of the lumpenproletariat invading the campus. They were admired for their freedom from responsibility. If that weren’t enough, he heartwarmingly observes, “They were real students in the classical sense of education as self-growth.” D’aww! Multitudes started dropping out of college, inspired by the hippie slackers. He notes this approvingly, as if flaking off their educations, thereby limiting their future careers, was some kind of a blessing. Berkeley used to be a real university before all of this Leftist nonsense became the “new normal.” These kids could’ve gone places if they hadn’t followed counterculture Pied Pipers like Jerry Rubin.

The administration tried to get rid of the troublemakers and smelly ragamuffins with no business on campus. Of course, Rubin was highly incensed about that. What an injustice, dig? OK, Boomer. . . Then he tells a story about getting busted at a sit-in “for smiling.” Maybe it had more to do with him trespassing?

In the next vignette, they organized a flash mob, repeatedly playing chicken with a troop train. Nobody earned a Darwin Award, but it was close. (Seriously — don’t try this at home, kids. Trains can’t stop suddenly.) The next one is about his adventures at the Vietnam Day Committee as a cheerleader for Ho Chi Minh. “We knew the day was not far off when there’d be Nuremberg Trials [12] in Amerika and we’d be the judges.” Woo hoo! Many of his young followers at Berkeley probably regarded all the mopery essentially as a political panty raid, but he certainly had some higher ambitions.

Counterculture family values

That much should provide the overall tenor of his misadventures. I’m going to hit the highlights from here on. Still, the above-going certainly wasn’t the last of him giving aid and comfort to his pal Ho Chi Minh.

“A Movement That Isn’t Willing to Risk Injuries, Even Deaths, Isn’t for Shit” is about a planned occupation of the Oakland Army Terminal. Note well, he certainly wasn’t a principled pacifist. (For one thing, recall that he earlier expressed willingness to be one of St. Che’s guerrillas.) Therefore, Jerry Rubin was doing these things not because he actually hated war, but because he hated his own country and wanted the Viet Cong to win. Twenty-five years previously, this same “Amerika” was instrumental in taking out his people’s fiercest opponent. What an ungrateful putz! Since this was the kind of thanks we got, maybe American youths should’ve started burning their draft cards in the 1940s.

The chapter’s first illustration brings us to an evocative side note. It’s captioned “Berkeley Kid Comics,” depicting in the foreground a youth proclaiming: “Come the revolution, let’s kill everyone!” He holds a hypodermic needle, apparently ready to celebrate by shooting up some heroin. In the background, a pile of books is burning. Far worse, two people labeled “Mom” and “Pop” were stabbed and hanged from nooses. As I wrote in Deplorable Diatribes [13]:

Later, the Frankfurt School and their growing following of Leftist professors worked wonders to intensify the generation gap, along with other radical fruitcakes, during the “kill your parents” 1960s. Without their help during these troubling times, millions of families would’ve been much less turbulent. Through their influence in academia, they were instrumental in turning Baby Boomer young adults against the generation that raised them. This counterculture stuff worked great: tune in, turn on, drop out, burn out, and never trust anyone over thirty.

Was that provocative phrase “kill your parents” meant to be taken seriously? When the champions of peace and love were challenged about it, typically they’d explain it away by saying it really meant that one should reject the bourgeois values of one’s elders. (If that’s true, why not create a more precise slogan?) However, this illustration in the political testament of one of the era’s most notable culture distorters suggests that Jerry Rubin meant this “kill your parents” stuff at least somewhat more literally

Other than that, chapter 14 further clarifies his thoughts on the generation gap:

Our parents are waging a genocidal war against their own kids. The economy has no use or need for youth. Everything is already built. Our existence is a crime.

The logical next step is to kill us. So Amerika drafts her young niggers and sends us to die in Vietnam.

I have to hand it to Rubin here. I couldn’t make up this kind of paranoid wangst if I tried. Other than that, it brings up the age-old question: are they crazy enough to believe their own nonsense?

We’re all so repressed, man

Chapter 20, with the provocative title “Fuck God,” begins by making some points about freedom of speech that actually are pretty salient. (It’s too bad that Leftists have flip-flopped on this since then.) After that, Rubin pulls a Herbert Marcuse shtick and calls out society for being so repressive. That causes all of our problems, dig? OK, Boomer. . .

Even now, Leftists still haven’t gotten tired of calling the USA puritanical, although the charge is even sillier lately. It’s nothing all that annoying, but do they really think this worn-out assertion is scoring them any points? Seriously, the USA in 1970 was hardly puritanical. Miniskirts were in fashion, the Hays Code was a thing of the past, suggestive music was no big deal, streaking was a fad, and porn would soon go mainstream. One could say that the whole decade was notorious for its bad taste moments. Jerry Rubin was doing his part with the potty mouth act, of course.

When we start playing with our “private parts,” our parents say “Don’t do that.” The mother commits a crime against her child when she says “Don’t do that.”

What an atrocity! Should I laugh or should I cry?

We’re taught that our shit stinks. We’re taught to be ashamed of how we came into the world — fucking. We’re taught that if we dig balling, we should feel guilty.

We’re taught: body pleasure is immoral!

We’re really taught to hate ourselves!

Uh oh — it’s time to call a wambulance!

Puritanism leads us to Vietnam. Sexual insecurity results in a supermasculinity trip called imperialism. Amerikan foreign policy, especially in Vietnam, makes no sense except sexually. Amerika has a frustrated penis, trying to drive itself into Vietnam’s tiny slit to prove it is The Man.

It sounds like he had a case of projection with that “frustrated penis” stuff. Freud right back at you!

Our tactic is to send niggers and longhair scum invading white middle-class homes, fucking on the living room floor, crashing on the chandeliers, spewing sperm on the Jesus pictures, breaking the furniture, and smashing Sunday school napalm-blood Amerika forever.

What a way to win hearts and minds! The chapter ends with “God is a yippie!” and then a wall of text consisting of the word “FUCK” — is this sublime, or what?

Too cool for school

Although Rubin’s primary target was square society, he sometimes made fun of Leftists. Chapter 21 contained some of that, but it also contained a surprising passage:

Their theories don’t explain us — a revolutionary movement that has come out of affluence, not poverty. We don’t fit into any of their preconceived “scientific” categories. They say the only role for whites is to “support” — support the Black Panthers, support the “working class,” support the Chinese.

The yippies see white middle-class youth as a revolutionary class. We are exploited and oppressed, and we are fighting for our freedom. We do not feel guilty because we’re not black, Chinese, or factory workers. Capitalism will die because it cannot satisfy its own children!

But then the liberal intellectuals tell us that a revolution has never taken place in an industrialized affluent country. Nothing in history has ever happened till it happens!

Well, now! He wasn’t the least bit on our side, of course, but if he were still around today, the above would’ve been more than enough for the “woke” zombies to cancel him.

For years I went to Left-wing meetings trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Finally, I started taking acid, and I realized what was going on: nothing. I vowed never to go to another Left-wing meeting again. Fuck Left-wing meetings!

What’s rather ironic was that George Lincoln Rockwell had been observing basically the same thing [14] on the right. However, it didn’t take psychedelics to figure it out. As far as we know, no special ingredient went into the famous corncob pipe.

The next chapter also struck the “too Leftist for Leftists” pose. This opened with some street theater at the New York Stock Exchange. At first, the guard didn’t want to let them in:

“Because you’re hippies and you’ve come to demonstrate.”

“Hippies?” Abbie shouts, outraged at the very suggestion. “We’re Jews and we’ve come to see the stock market.”

VISION: The next day’s headlines:

NEW YORK STOCK MARKET BARS JEWS.

We’ve thrown the official a verbal karate punch. He relents.

I’ve got to hand it to Abbie Hoffman; that was clever! Atop the balcony, they start tossing money into the trading pit. “Like wild animals, the stockbrokers climb all over each other to grab the money.” After they get kicked out of the building, they start burning their cash as a crowd looked on.

The next act is before the Great Socialist Debate Hall, obviously a very different crowd. When it was Rubin’s turn to talk:

On a portable phonograph I played Dylan and the Beatles. “Something Is Happening But You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You, Mr. Jones?” and “I Am a Walrus.”

Goo-goo-ga-choo. Then he burns a draft card, to much acclaim. After that, he burns a dollar bill:

“Why don’t you give that dollar to people who are poor and who need it?” a “Socialist” called out.

I was shocked. The “Socialists” see money just like the capitalists do. As a real thing.

“How can you burn money when poor people in the ghetto need it?” another “Socialist” asked.

I smiled and burned another piece of green paper. Around the room, shorthaired socialists hissed and booed the burning of money.

“You should join the circus!” they cried.

Yippies all around the room stood and burned bills.

Whenever he criticized garden-variety radicalinskis like that, I found it remarkable how much more practical and sensible they seemed compared to this goofy burnout.

Money causes the separation between work and life. People don’t do what they dig because they want smelly money. People don’t dig what they do because they work for the dollar.

There certainly is something to all that. Still, how exactly was he buying his meals during that time? Or was he foraging nuts and berries in a park or something?

If the Beatles listened to their own music, they would burn all their money.

Actually, that’s what Mark David Chapman thought. After that, much follows concerning the virtue of theft. For example:

Kids should steal money from their parents, because that is true liberation from the money ethic: true family.

What makes all this ironic is that Jerry Rubin went back on all these fine principles of his later on. Briefly, this even included working on Wall Street.

Mopery in Chicago

Rubin’s most famous act was disrupting the Democratic Party’s national convention in “Czechago.” (The funny spelling seems to indicate that he had a problem with Bohunks.) I’m painting with broad brushstrokes here, but if you thought the yippies were merely garden-variety peace creeps, the following might be enlightening.

And we were motherfucking bad. We were dirty, smelly, grimy, foul, loud, dope-crazed, hell-bent, and leather-jacketed. We were a public display of filth and shabbiness, living in-the-flesh rejects of middle-class standards.

We pissed and shit and fucked in public; we crossed streets on red rights; and we opened Coke bottles with our teeth. We were constantly stoned or tripping on every drug known to man.

We were the outlaw forces of Amerika displaying ourselves flagrantly on a world stage.

Dig it! The future of humanity was in our hands!

Yippie!

OK, Boomer. . . After an inevitable confrontation with the police:

Yippies set fires in garbage cans, knocked them into the streets, set off fire alarms, disrupted traffic, broke windows with rocks, created chaos in a hundred different directions.

Police cars zoomed after us. We’d hit the ground, lying low, not making a sound until the cars passed by.

Police cars caught alone were wiped out with rocks.

After that, they declared secession from society and made an appeal to the UN. (Mercifully, nothing came of that part of the silliness.) However, there is a comical side too. The yippies decided that they needed to nominate their own Presidential candidate, which would be a pig — yes, an actual hog.

We could see the yippie festival now: a dramatic mock convention with potsmoke-filled caucus rooms and delegates from Middle Earth, Aquarius, New Mexico, and the Lower East Side.

The problem is that they were making plans to sacrifice and eat their own candidate, offending the sensibilities of some of them:

Only one political issue could divide the yippies. We had no problems with capitalism (against), Albania (for), free sex (for), ABM (for). But vegetarianism almost destroyed us.

Nobody objected on the basis of pigs not being kosher, even though yippies are Jewish hippies. But Ed Sanders refused to have any part of a political party that was going to take the life of any beating heart.

They didn’t have to worry about the question of what they’d do with “Pigasus” much longer, because the principal ringleaders got busted.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

There’s a lot more to all this, but I’ll wrap it up here. Toward the end of Do It! are some insights on revolution, some of which actually are pretty salient. Then the last chapter is sort of a fantasy scenario of what the world would look like after the Revolution. The last part of it reads:

The world will become one big commune with free food and housing, everything shared.

All watches and clocks will be destroyed.

Barbers will go to rehabilitation camps where they will grow their hair long.

There will be no such crime as “stealing” because everything will be free.

The Pentagon will be replaced by an LSD experimental farm.

There will be no more schools or churches because the entire world will become one church and school.

People will farm in the morning, make music in the afternoon and fuck wherever and whenever they want to.

That’s more or less the same fairy tale vision that Karl Marx was selling, which eventually would evolve after the Revolution created a worldwide socialist state. The last line, in fact, is a fairly close paraphrase of Marx himself describing the days to come. (These things might seem like a manifesto from Cloud Cuckoo Land, but remember that this sort of pipe dream has been powerful enough to motivate quite a few people to raise hell for a century and counting.) Then lastly, in fine print:

The United States of Amerika will become a tiny yippie island in a vast sea of Yippieland love.

So it ends with a bit of sugarplum globalism too. D’aww!

All told, Do It! was quite an insight into the mind of a notable counterculture radicalinski. This was someone who came of age during the 1950s, a time of prosperity as well as America’s last normal decade. Even so, he came to despise his own country, consider it to be a standard of absolute evil, and incessantly bitch about how repressive it was. Meanwhile, he idolized dysfunctional Marxist regimes like North Vietnam, which eventually became notorious for reeducation camps, and Cuba, where his hero St. Che took pleasure in shooting dissidents. His yippie comrades were spoiled brats who also had that mentality.

Even so, the yippies were less crazy than other sludge from that era like the Weathermen, the Symbinese Liberation Army [15], and the People’s Temple [16]. However, none of them have produced such an unintentionally funny memoir about all that, which is the primary value of Do It! Bill Ayers does have writing chops, so if he wanted to, he could create some bitterly black humor about his days in the Weathermen. As for the other two groups, getting comical personal reminiscences from their members obviously would require a Ouija board.

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