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A Short History of H-R X

By John G. Short

Are you a minister of information for Harvard-Radcliffe X? Do you know that you're not?

The ministers of information of H-R X (the anarchist group) were chosen at random from the student directory. The ministers of information are the only positions of power in X; their names are listed in the dean's office just before "Young Dems" and right after "Whiffenpoofs." H-R X is official; that is to say, it exists. . . . For example, it can hold meetings in a Harvard building, and even post ("dated") notices on Harvard bulletin boards. Rogers Albritton, professor in Philosophy, Samuel Beer, professor in Government, and Robert Lowell, Ralph Waldo Emerson Lecturer in English Literature, are the faculty members under whose signed advice X was approved. All this, of course, is to establish some sort of credibility. You see, X is no one night stand; no, as they say, fair-weather baby; not a flash in the pan, you know; not this one, no fly-by-night, no sir.

Well, why should we want to chronicle the activities of any one particular undergraduate organization (organized --ation?)? Good question. It seems that our desire is to put some sort of order into our thinking about such things as anarchy.

Tell us a story, one asks us. To this we answer with a chronology. That's the way to relate one thing to another--by its place in the depth of time. Tell us a story about Harvard-Radcliffe X, one asks us. To this we give them:

SEPTEMBER 29 -- Anarchy finds its Genesis in half a dozen people passing out free balloons at the Brattle Theatre in the middle of a Marx Brothers festival during a showing of "Go West." These people are from the self-professed "Andy's Gang" (a group that would later splinter from X in a dispute over structure). They pass out balloons that read "Andy died for your sins," "Good Soup and Andy's Gang," "JFK died for Andy's sins," and "John Lennon uses Andy."

Moviewatchers left clutching balloon strings wince, wrinkle, and cough vacantly into their scarves. The meaning of what is done is obscure. And pretty silly. Unknown, Andy's Gang never makes it big and slips into a proud, if arrogant, oblivion.

OCTOBER 8 -- Waving for the first time a large black flag, a cell from the newly-formed H-R X goes to George Wallace's Boston Common rally and passes out literature urging the sweeping of Wallace "Into the White House and beyond." Twenty thousand people are there (20,000); 12,000 of these are screaming, loony college-kid leftists, who are screaming and shouting loony things at Wallace who speaks. X writes of him that he has won the support of "the decent and the simple, the forgotten and remembered by proclaiming as Washington did and Grant after him: 'No man has the right to be bound by Humanity.'"

X members pass out hundreds of leaflets that read in part: "The whole nation, stirred to teeming excitement by his eloquence, has tingled in every polyglot branch: English and French, Irish and Italian, German and Polish, Hungarian and Japanese, black and white, Swede and Magyar, all have mouthed his name in ecstasy, flinging the wonderful sound to the blue God-given skies until the vastness of America roared." I like the idea of America roaring--America the big lion, roaring munching during its elections period. When is it that the American lion yawns?

Wallace, himself, in the sweaty twitching flesh, is later interviewed between campaign stops by CRIMSON reporter David Bruck. Bruck refers to the X pamphlet to affirm Wallace's probe about weren't there some for him at Harvard, too. "Yes," muses Wallace, "we've got support from students on all th' campuses."

OCTOBER 30 -- X rallies around a ten foot black balloon in front of the Holyoke Center to protest the English Department. A multi-point petition demands the department be abolished, the study prohibited, and the building razed.

They march to English headquarters at Warren House and demand in. When someone says "take it; its yours," they do. Twenty of them take over the hallway as English department chairman Morton W. Bloomfield comes bubbling down the stairs. "I just can't talk to all you together. So let's be reasonable about all this. I'll be glad to meet with a representative committee of you in my office."

X's spokesman turns to Bloomfield and smiles: "We don't want to discuss it," he says. Whereupon Bloomfield, apparently worried about how long his building will be apprehended, begins to explain all the work he and his people are doing to fix things up. Someone interrupts with the cry, "What about Jelpy?" (alluding to a popular lecturer who didn't get tenure). Then another person, nearer to Bloomfield, tells him that reform is no substitute for abolition. At this point the group started walking in circles, an action which resulted in their looping out of the front door of the building. Having possessed the building, they explained in passing, they were offering it to those who felt they wanted it most.

The column of marchers then black-flagged their way down to the Lampoon building in Freedom Square where the magazine was rolling a huge birth control pill down Bow Street specifically, for the benefit of a television news camera crew. X, without explanation, halted this demonstration and demanded an end to the English department at Harvard. The ibises and narthexes of the Lampoon got very upset about this; but the newsmen were even more so. They threatened to leave if their news wasn't allowed to proceed as it had been about to. The cameras were consequently allowed to roll amid a staccotic background chanting "structured fun" and "planned laughs." In an exchange the Lampoon destroyed the anarchists' balloon with flares, and X charged the members-only tower of the castle and covered Lampys flag flying from the top with a black one. It was all pretty silly.

NOVEMBER 5 -- On election day a disgruntled H-R X joins a line of leftists and parades through greater Cambridge and lesser Boston all the way down to the Boston Common. What the liftists are saying is "Don't Vote," which is something the anarchists believe in. But what the anarchists add is "Don't Do Anything," which the leftists pretend they don't hear.

As the column approaches the Common, X pitches forward its flags and goes charging wildly past the marshals up the side of the march pigzagging through the trees on the wide center strip that divides Commonwealth Avenue. Many people take up the chase as the charge passes them until finally there are a couple of dozen people running to the head of the march. Just as they approach it, X lowers its flags and melts into the line. Several dozen people suddenly find themselves walking in circles amongst the trees.

When X gets to the Boston Common, Julian Beck and Judith Maline of the Living Theatre come over to the black flag and say they didn't know there were any anarchists in Boston. It is explained that X is not a Bakunonist operation, but rather, it does things that ask to be done. Beck nods, and says that what X tries to do is what he has been trying to do for years. The anarchists point out that there is no point in "comparing" any two ideas.

NOVEMBER 12 -- X plans its biggest and most socially-directed demonstration. The boys and girls of X are to shop passionately in the discount basement of Filene's downtown Boston store. Then at a given moment they are to strip off their clothing and start shouting, "I can not appear without my clothing. I can not travel without a passport."

This, however, turns out to be X's most cowardly demonstration. Much is chanted, but little clothing is removed. When store security people start moving in to stop the spreading of good news, X pivots and runs. "There is no point," one of them said, "to being in jail."

NOVEMBER 22 -- X coagulates to paint a fence. A Soc Rel 136 (the radical critique of Harvard course) section had painted a construction fence opposite Lehman Hall the day before and had had their bursar's cards taken. X went into the teeth of the precedent with indifference. They put the first marks on the Harvard Hall fence before the few members were driven off by a couple of Harvard cops. The token triumph is announced to the people lunching at Lehman Hall, where what is later called a revolution ensues. Someone brings out a record player and starts the then new Beatles album; a girl starts giving a finger painting class; and another person sells yogurt for prices cheaper than Lehman Hall charges. On the next Monday (after the Yale football game) the whole of the Harvard Hall fence is painted with X paint.

JANUARY 14 -- X trundles out in the snows of reading period to urge the faculty voting on punishment for the ROTC sit-in to "Kick the Fags Out of Harvard." Other picket signs read "Nuke the Pukes" (referring to the nickname for non-jocks at Columbia during the time of the revolt), "We're with you, Sam Huntington" (mentioning the name of the author of the CEP ROTC resolution), and "Send the anarchists to Vietnam" (fine irony in this last one).

Along about half way through the flow of faculty comes Tim Gould, serious Harvard undergraduate leftist, up to the X people saying in a very agitated way that they should get out of there because they are just going to get all the demonstrators kicked out of school whereas he is trying to save them by buttonholing professors and giving them good reasons for thinking the way he does. X tells him the campus must defend itself, and that some of his professors are sneaking by.

When it's all over, I'm walking through the Yard with some signs and some other people with signs when a Buildings and Grounds crew guy calls out that we shouldn't go around protesting and playing around when he's working real hard keeping the school going for us. What do you think you're doing anyway, he says, and here I am working . . . . First, I tell him we're protesting to have the real demonstrators punished; you know those SDS types, I say, the one that make all the trouble for the rest of us. Neither this nor the American Flags we are carrying make us good to him.

Then I realize that his analysis pretty much got it. I'm rich and had a whole lot of opportunities as a kid and so that's why I'm at Harvard, or that's why they thought I was "smart" and so am at Harvard. And he's poor, has about zero alternatives, of which working for Harvard is the best one. Yeah, I said, he's right. I can't really argue with that. It exists. So do I. So does H-R X.

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