Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alternatives: Summer 1966

Alternatives was a magazine produced by graduate students in the philosophy department at UCSD (edited by Andrew Feenberg). You can access the first issue here. The second issue contains several articles of interest, including: an essay by Linus Pauling "To Live as Men"; Part II of Marcuse's essay "The Individual in the Great Society"; an essay on "Marxism and Christianity" by former UCSD Philosophy professor and Jesuit priest Paul Henry, and an essay on "Viet Nam and the Home Front" by ex-Senator Wayne Morse. There is also a letter to the editor by Günther Anders, some photos of the UCSD campus, and an advertisement for an Alan Watts seminar (p. 39).

Alternatives Summer 1966

Friday, August 20, 2010

First hand accounts of Marcuse's undergraduate teaching

A pair of articles appearing in 1969 in the Los Angeles Times describe the excitement and intensity of Herbert Marcuse's undergraduate classes at UCSD.

Art Seidenbaum in a Los Angeles Times article entitled "The Trouble with Students" gives an interesting first hand account of the author's first time meeting with Dr. Herbert Marcuse and the subsequent lecture on Freud which he attended.

The story begins with a random student telling Seidenbaum: "Hey, if you're gonna get to know this place, you ought to hear Marcuse". Art plans to hear Marcuse and so the story continues: "This is the day Herbert Marcuse's undergraduate class meets. Marcuse is the most controversial philosopher in California, the synthesizer of Freud and Marx whose books have become working manuals for American student revolutionaries".

Art makes his way to a UCSD info desk and asks where he can find Marcuse, "the information executive hesitates. Then he reminds me that Marcuse has received death threats". He continues, "the executive calls his secretary who calls Marcuse's secretary who promises to check with the professor himself". Art gets the go-ahead and makes his way to Marcuse's office, he is given a ONE-TIME ONLY pass. The following is the interesting re-telling of Art's first meeting with Marcuse:

"As I thank the secretary, in walks a slightly-stooped, gray-haired sparrow of a man who starts to pour himself a cup of coffee from the urn in the corner. The secretary smiles at me and nods at him, meaning Dr. Marcuse is among us. When he turns to face her with his coffee she introduces me. We shake hands, and he asks if I have any "devices" with me. I have no idea what he means but I open my briefcase so that he can look inside where there are only pads and pencils. He explains that he meant recording equipment. And then, in a soft, paternal voice he apologizes. He is embarrassed for having asked and I am embarrassed too".

After their introduction Art attends Marcuse's undergraduate course entitled "The Present Age" which he recounts as being "in the basement of the humanities building" and that there were "graduate student guards at the doors".

"The room is fan shaped and full. An American flag stands behind the lectern. The students are predominantly freshman, mostly clean-cutters by the lengths of hair and skirts. Dr. Marcuse comes in a few minutes after the hour and his first remark is a request: 'Would you please not smoke in this room. There have been many complaints. So repress. Repress.' He rolls his 'R's' and the students giggle over repression while the philosopher wipes his glasses. The kids lean forward, expectantly. Todays lecture is basic Freud, all about man's instinctive need for pleasure versus civilization's restraint and repression of pleasure. Marcuse walks as he talks, constantly taking off his glasses and wiping them. He is cordial enough but hardly rousing as he describes the primal horde and goes on to define ego, id and superego. 'From time to time', Marcuse says, 'the primordial force breaks through the repressions of civilization; sons may band together, as in the primal horde, to revolt against the father. Witness the generation gap.' The pimpled boy next to me snickers. Marcuse continues: 'Man's basic drives are sex and aggression. Both are in constant antagonism. There is no such thing as a self-preservation instinct; the need for pleasure supercedes self-preservation'. Then, still using the same mild tone, still wiping his glasses, Marcuse concludes, 'Aggression in man must sooner or later destroy him--as we shall see next time.' The guru of the revolution is a gentle, repressed personality, I realize. Certainly less aggressive than his critics."

The ending of the lecture concludes Art's encounter with Dr. Marcuse. The narrative tells a rich and detailed, albeit short, account of a reporter meeting Prof. Marcuse and attending one of his lectures; a rare insight into the behind-the-scenes life of a celebrity philosopher.

In another LA Times piece entitled "Herbert Marcuse: Accentuating the Negative", published July 27, 1969, Roger Rapoport gives details of an interview with Erica Sherover, doctoral candidate at the time as well as Marcuse's research assistant (and future wife), as well as another short snippet of a lecture with Dr. Marcuse; the article gives further insight into his teaching methods and personality.

Erica Sherover, speaking about how Dr. Marcuse generates a healthy amount of academic turmoil in the classroom, is quoted as saying, "He's at his best when dealing with leftists who've swallowed a lot of jargon. They expound theories and he says, 'What do you mean by that?' He forces them to expose their ignorance".

Rapoport goes on to give details of a "Marx and Lenin" lecture he sat in on:

"In class, Marcuse comes on like like a Teutonic master. Ready to convene a 'Marx and Lenin' lecture, he silences gossiping students by coming up from behind and poking them gently with his pointer. He begins class by promoting an extracurricular discussion of the SDS leaflet that has attacked his teaching methods. 'Could we meet next monday night?' he says afterwards. Student heads nod, but one boy laments: 'That's the night of the jazz concert.' 'Very well,' says Marcuse. 'We shall put the two together.' After the laughter subsides, Marcuse lectures on Marxian theory: 'Moral judgements do not play any role in capitalism. The theory calls for a specific social and political practice. There's not the slightest indication in Marx of capitalist conspiracy of the upper class. There is no theory of the evil character of capitalists. Even if all capitalists are angels, there would still be disintegration and a need for radical change.'"

Works Cited

Rapoport, Roger. "Herbert Marcuse: Accentuating the Negative". Los Angeles Times, Jul 27, 1969, p. N12-15.

Seidenbaum, Art. "The Trouble With Students". Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1969, p. M9-14.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Repressive Tolerance at UCSD? Undergraduate speaker controversy occasioned a neglected Los Angeles Times piece by Marcuse

A strange episode at UCSD in 1970 resulted in an interesting set of articles published in the Los Angeles Times, including one by Herbert Marcuse that we do not find on his official bibliography or on the website marcuse.org. In it, Marcuse defends his doctrine of repressive tolerance in the context of a controversy about teaching at UCSD.

The essay "Repressive Tolerance", originally written in 1965 and found in its entirety as printed in the book A Critique of Pure Tolerance in 1969, advocates intolerance toward groups that are generally harmful, or, themselves intolerant. For Marcuse, the liberal ideal of "tolerance" should not be extended to groups like the Right Wing who are themselves intolerant of other groups. He states, "Given this situation, I suggested in 'Repressive Tolerance' the practice of discriminating tolerance in an inverse direction, as a means of shifting the balance between Right and Left by restraining the liberty of the Right, thus counteracting the pervasive inequality of freedom (unequal opportunity of access to the means of democratic persuasion) and strengthening the oppressed against the oppressed". An episode at UCSD shows Marcuse practicing the doctrine, by using a Right Wing speaker's lack of credentials to cast into doubt his right to address a group of college students earning credit for a course.

The issue began when Marcuse protested the coming appearance of Dr. Fred Schwarz, the president of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade. Schwarz was invited by UCSD (tracking down exactly who) to give the lead off lecture for a course entitled "Conservative and Traditional Views of Contemporary Issues". In a letter to Dr. Martin Chamberlain, director of UCSD extension (a letter which we are trying to locate) Marcuse stated that Schwarz' visit was, "an insult to the intelligence of any serious audience, a mockery of conservative thought". Marcuse said Schwarz was described in a book (the title of which we hope is in his letter to Chamberlain) as "a hate-monger and rabble-rouser". These events are described in an article entitled "Marcuse Protests Anti-Red Lectures at UC San Diego" written by a staff writer at the LAT (published on March 27, 1970).

In response, Dr. William Banowsky, who at the time was the Chancellor of the new campus of Pepperdine College, wrote an article entitled "An Unwitting Score for Tolerance", published in the LAT April 5, 1970. The article was meant to be a direct blow to Marcuse's doctrine of repressive tolerance. Banowsky says that Marcuse's objection "misses the point" and that he (Marcuse) "may have unintentionally scored a point for the other side". Banowsky essentially calls Marcuse a hypocrite for denying his opponent the right to speak yet affirming his own; Banowsky asserts that repressive tolerance essentially means 'tolerate my view, and not yours'.

Marcuse responded in the LAT on April 12, 1970, an article entitled "The True Nature of Tolerance". The article begins: "Regrettably, Dr. Banowsky shares in the customary misrepresentation of my opinions. I did not deny Dr. Fred Schwarz right to be heard on campus; I denied his qualification to appear as a lecturer in a accredited course". He goes on to say, " I did not invoke my "political philosophy" in protest to Schwarz because it does not apply: I do not consider him dangerous - just not qualified". Marcuse then goes on to further explicate and defend the notion of repressive tolerance. Marcuse states, "Nowhere have I argued for intolerance of all views opposed to mine, nowhere have I implied that I am in possession of 'absolute truth'. I have suggested withdrawal of tolerance from demonstrably aggressive and destructive movements on the Right." But the real point of the article is in making the distinction of WHY exactly Marcuse protested Schwarz' appearance in the first place. It wasn't that Marcuse disagreed with Schwarz and therefore didn't want an opposing view to be heard on campus; his protest was instead directed toward Schwarz' credibility.

Works Cited

Anonymous. "Marcuse Protests Anti-Red Lectures at UC San Diego", LAT March 27, 1970, p. 3.

Banowsky, W. "An Unwitting Score for Tolerance", LAT April 5, 1970, p. E7.

Marcuse, H. "Repressive Tolerance" 1965, in Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), pp.95-137. Available online at: http://marcuse.org/herbert/pubs/60spubs/65repressivetolerance.htm, includes Herbert's 1968 'Postscript'.

Marcuse, H. "The True Nature of Tolerace", LAT April 12, 1970, p. D7.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Exile on Thorn Street

UCSD graduate students under the direction of Herbert Marcuse started a number of journals, including the philosophy journal Alternatives, which I discussed in an earlier post. Lowell Bergman, Angela Davis and others started the Street Journal and San Diego Free Press (see the Library of Congress entry here; we are researching those journals and will post more later).

For these efforts they, predictably, suffered repression at the hands of San Diego police and probably federal agencies including the FBI and CIA as well (at least according to this 2006 U.S. News and World Report article). They were aided and supported by heroic San Diego Superior Court judge Roger Ruffin, about whom I also wrote about in a recent post.

It seems that they headquartered at the historic Franz Merzman House, at Second Avenue and Thorn Street, near downtown and Balboa Park, according to this San Diego Union Tribune piece. One can see a picture of the house here on google maps. I am interested in this detail because I happen to live on Thorn Street myself, though on the other side of the park.

Roger Ruffin: 1927-2010; outspoken defender of radical UCSD philosophers

Roger Ruffin, who died earlier this year, was a San Diego Superior Court judge who defended Herbert Marcuse against critics, and helped UCSD philosophy postdoc Lowell Bergman (who was Marcuse's student) and others dealing with police repression in San Diego, especially in connection with the radical San Diego Street Journal. He was evidently a very colorful character, friend of Andy Warhol, and appeared in several art-house movies. An obituary in the San Diego Union Tribune quotes Bergman and provides some further details.

Lance: can you see if there are any references to Ruffin in Under the Perfect Sun? If so, please give us page references.

Guest Blogger: Lance Winsaft

Over the next couple of weeks, UCSD undergraduate philosophy major Lance Winsaft will be posting to the blog and augmenting the bibliography in connection with a research project on the history of UCSD philosophy department he is undertaking to fulfill a Sixth College requirement. He has already turned up some interesting things on Herbert Marcuse and the early history of the department by researching the archives of the Los Angeles Times. Stay tuned for recollections of Marcuse's undergraduate teaching at UCSD, reflection on an incident at UCSD exemplifying Marcuse's doctrine of repressive tolerance, and a description of the bomb threat against Marcuse in July 1968, among other things.