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The Resistance: An Obituary

By Richard E. Hyland

"YOU THE GUY that left the note on the door?"

"No, Just passing by. Is the Resistance still here?"

"Yep."

Two years ago, the Resistance rented a double size garage at 28 Stanhope St. for $ 100. But no one ever paid the rent because the landlord made monthly donations of $100.

"What does the button say?"

"Trout Fishing in America, Inc."

The button was white with "Trout Fishing in America, Inc." in green Roman capitals, centered, in four lines. Someone had tossed me the button during an interview. I had expected to see the Great American Wilderness and two rainbow trout in a frying pan. Instead the button was very straightforward. And it was tossed by a girl with long black hair, a purple sweater, and no brassiere. I had put it on without thinking.

A year ago, the button of the New England Resistance was a black hand styled. Omega on a white background. Omega stands for ohms in electricity which measures resistance, which, sometime after October 16, 1967, became the official insignia for draft resistance. I first put on my Omega button as I dropped my letter to Ramsey Clark with my draft cards into a red and blue box labelled "U. S. Mail." That was in San Diego, California last summer. That was when buttons meant more than they do now. They somehow told what was on your mind.

"I haven't been here for about six months and I wondered whether the Resistance was still alive." 28 Stanhope St. is right behind the Boston Police station. I had gone to the station to find out about the policeman who had arrested the students supporting the strike at Morgan Memorial, Inc. this summer. The two policemen who had made the arrests were off-duty members of the tactical police force. The lieutenant called them "night men." Morgan Memorial hired them for $6.00 an hour to "maintain order." They work during the night and "do strikes" during the day.

"MOST PEOPLE who've been away for six months don't usually come back."

I had last been to the Stanhop St. office last Fall to pick up Resistance newspapers to sell in the Dunster Dining Room. I had arrived in the midst of the Resistance's first birthday party-October 16, 1968. That was the anniversary of the first draft card turn-in on the Boston Common.

This time, there were about twenty bundles of the last edition of the Resistance newspaper piled amid the fallen partitions in the back of the office. The last time I had been there, I had apportioned myself exactly 50 to sell. I had counted them over twice.

"What's been going on since the Fall?"

"Well, first, during the Fall, we had a lot of political hassles."

I had spent a month with the Resistance after the Humphrey demonstration in September planning the same kind of reception for Nixon. We were going to have loudspeakers and a ladder and we were going to toss it up as Nixon began to speak and ask him about the war and the draft. Then some members of Progressive Labor Party came to our nightly planning sessions. They were against the war too, but they wanted to know what our demonstrations were supposed to accomplish.

"Do you expect to convince the people in the crowd who come to hear their candidate, Richard Nixon?" they asked.

I had tried to organize in the crowd at the Humphrey demonstration. I had seen the faces of the women with Humphrey buttons as we yelled "Bullllllll-shit! Bullllllll-shit!" and "Heil Hitler!" at everything Humphrey said. We knew we wouldn't convince them.

"Do you expect to convince the people who would see ten seconds of the demonstration on TV and then get Walter Cronkite's opinion of it?"

No.

"Well, nothing irritates working people more than a bunch of rich kids with long hair yelling in the streets. What in the hell are you doing?"

I HAD ALWAYS wanted to answer that we were changing the minds of the ruling class. Teddy looked really sad when we yelled "Sellllll-out!" at him too. The first time a Kennedy had been booed in Boston. Humphrey had even cut his prepared speech to shout back at us. He promised to "do everything in my power to end the war if you elect me President." I had been in the first row and I was sure that Humphrey had looked at me during the yelling and had seen my clenched fist and work shirt with rolled-up sleeves. I was sure that I could see that that day, Humphrey had turned against the war. I was wrong.

In fact, the whole idea of the Resistance was to change the mind of the ruling class. If enough middleclass kids went to jail, all of their parents would be so upset that they would never let the war continue. I'll still bet that when my parents talk to other parents, they defend what I did. It's really hard to call your own kid a "freak."

Some people in the Resistance really thought that we would be able to stop Hershey's machine. Hershey's real problem though was not how to find 500,000 men to sent to Vietnam but how to channel the other 11,000,000 into activities for the national interest. The Resistance strategy was bound to fail but a lot was learned about what not to do in the future.

All of the "political hassles" over the Nixon demonstration ended when Nixon himself, feeling that he would lose votes in direct proportion to the number of people he talked to, decided first to hold a press conference in a Boston hotel, then to hold a private reception in another hotel, and then finally to cancel the entire Boston trip. He was no fool.

By the way, who are you?"

"I'm Walrus."

WALRUS WAS ONE of the really important people from the old Resistance days. He was wearing a green corduroy cap and hiking boots. He had a moustache that grew straight down over both lips. He had cut his hair, which was why I didn't recognize him.

Walrus was sitting behind the wooden desk in the front of the office. Before the partitions had fallen, the garage had been divided into a front part, a mimeograph part, a phone part, and a storage part in the back. There was a winding stairway that led to the basement, the scene of all important group meetings.

The desk was the only part of the office that was still in the same position. Walrus had his feet propped up on it. There was one partition remaining behind him. On it, pages were scotch-taped from movement newspapers that looked like posters. One was red with white letters: "Some people talk about the weather. Not us." It had the silhouettes of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

"Where's that from?"

The Chevron in Toronto. A lot of wobblies run the paper."

There was also a black and white poster, apparently from the police station, showing a full-sized outline of a man's body with a rating system for the most vulnerable parts to shoot at.

During the Resistance, someone always sat at the desk to answer the phone. When the Resistance was very big, that was a very important position. Walrus had been there most of the days I spent there. He was also there now.

"We had a demonstration for the Presidio trials."

"How did it turn out?"

"Not one of the best."

All I knew about the demonstration was the sign spray-painted on the entrance to the Cambridge Common that says "Presidio 7 -March 24," Last Fall, the Resistance had called for a draft card turn-in on November 14. We had spent many early morning hours hiding from police cars in order to stencil Omegas and "Nov. 14" all over Cambridge- buildings, sidewalks, walls, everywhere. The style was still the same.

"What happened then?"

"WE GOT INTO a lot of high school organizing. The Collective decided that it should be in white working class areas."

"What's the Collective?"

"We organized it in December and January. You probably remember we had a cabal of six people making decisions."

Everyone always said we had a cabal of six people making decisions. It was true that I had never made a decision. I was also sure, however, that I had never wanted to. Someone had to make decisions and six seemed as good a number as any.

There were a lot of intellectual bullshitters. We got rid of them."

"How many are in the Collective now?"

"About six or seven. We decided that people could help make decisions only if they did something."

I had been at the meeting down stairs that Jim Oesterreich chaired about the "membership" of the Resistance. Jim later won a Supreme Court case about divinity students. The meeting decided that to be a member, you would have to do something. Before, the only criterion had been handing in your draft cards or, for girls, liking to talk with boys who had handed in their draft cards. Handing in your draft card had always seemed to me to be doing something.

"What are you doing now?"

"We've decided to move out of the city into the suburbs to help serve the needs of the community."

"Why aren't you staying here?"

"Landlord wants us to move. He originally gave us the place for a couple of months and we've been here almost two years. It isn't political repression or anything; he just wants us to move. Besides, there's no one to organize. I can't organize secretaries, businessmen, and cops, can you?"

I had just tried at the police station and I had learned that I couldn't.

"We're moving into more high school organizing. When high school kids see meetings with Marines, radicals, and commies (that's us) that all agree on the war, they understand that there's something wrong with their analysis."

"Is Bill Hunt still here?"

"He says 'Hi' when you pass him on the street. He's not making decisions, though."

Bill Hunt was probably the best speaker in the movement. At Monday night dinners in the Arlington St. Church, he had his own circle around him. That was the one solid thing about the Resistance. It was a community. Every Monday night, the FBI agents with felt hats and overcoats would cross the street from the Common and stand in front of the church. They'd stand by the entrance to the meeting room downstairs and aim umbrellas at you and take your picture, click. The women in the Unitarian church made dinner and about a hundred people ate together off paper plates.

BILL HUNT gave his "Channelling" speech about once a month. He talked about Hershey and his newspaper women in the army he'd draft them. He gave that speech the night the Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and sentenced David O'Brien to five years for burning his draft card. David was there and the speech cheered him up. Later, the judge whose decision was reversed decided that no Supreme Court was going to reverse his decision. He suspended the sentence.

Mike Ferber, Bill Hunt, and the community feeling in the Resistance were probably more convincing than the war as reasons to hand in your draft cards. Almost everone later decided that there were better places to fight the war than jail. The people who didn't receive 4-F's or 1-Y's took back their 2-S's. It was easy to say that the whole strategy of the Resistance about filling the jails to end the war was wrong. It was good to have a handy rationalization around.

"Where you going to go from here?"

"We're moving to Mission Hills in two days. Brigham Circle."

"So I really shouldn't pass by any more, huh?" I had just noticed the extent to which the old Resistance office had collapsed. The roof beams were strewn about the floor and plaster and panelling from the walls and ceiling had fallen all over. Only one of the couches with half the springs showing was left, and it was upside down. The usually well-lit office had lost most of its fluorescent bulbs. None of the mimeograph equipment or file cabinets was left. The screen door still hung open from the garage door, and that had led me to assume that all the rest was the same.

"Are you going to keep the name Resistance?"

"I don't know, we might change it. One thing I forgot to tell you. We don't do anti-draft work anymore. We're anti capitalist now."

Oh.

"Have you ever thought of doing some high school work? You should stop by. You might want to join us. After we talked it out, of course."

"No, I think we'll probably have enough to do at Harvard this year."

"You go to Harvard?"

"Yeh."

"That's too bad."

"Yeh. I know."

"No. I mean..."

"No. I know exactly what you mean."

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