Berkeley's Free Speech Movement
Free expression threatened across America.
by Stephen Lendman
Free expression in all forms are fundamental in democratic societies.
All other freedoms are risked without free speech, a free press, freedom of thought, culture, intellectual inquiry, and right to challenge government authority peacefully.
In the 1960s, anti-war and civil rights activism inspired Berkeley's Free Speech Movement (FSM). It began in 1964. UC Berkeley students protested banned on-campus political activity.
They demanded free expression and academic freedom rights. Unprecedented student activism followed.
FSM was a student initiative. Faculty, administration and local government officials joined. UC students earlier protested House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC: 1947 - 1975) anti-communist witch hunts.
Berkeley's 1964 fall term included several dozen students returning from Mississippi's "Freedom Summer." Racially motivated discrimination and violence horrified them.
They bonded with other student activists. Berkeley's activist SLATE (1958 - 1966) was precursor to FSM. Civil rights and International Workers of the World (IWW) leaders supported it. So did Joan Baez and Bettina Aptheker. She later became UC Santa Cruz Feminist Studies Professor.
Activism is traditional at Berkeley. It began long before FSM. Iconoclasts and free-thinkers challenged hidebound societal notions and practices.
Muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens studied at Berkeley. So did novelist Frank Norris and Spanish Civil War Abraham Lincoln Brigade commander Robert Merriman.
In the early 1920s, faculty activists revolted. An Academic Senate followed. Shared governance at that time was unprecedented. The tradition lives.
Student groups since the 1930s protested against emerging fascism, banned leftist speakers, capital punishment, and a statewide UC loyalty oath.
In 1949, university regents approved it. It required faculty, staff and student employees to declare in writing no connection to the Communist Party.
Opposition arose. Regents relented. In 1952, California's Supreme Court sided with fired university employees for refusing to sign.