Investigative Poetics – 9 (Smoking Typewriters – 2 – “The Sixties”)

National Guardsmen wielding rifles with bayonets advanced along Springfield Avenue in Newark on July 14 1967 – Photograph Don Hogan Charles for The New York Times

AG: “Investigative Poetics, I think, at this point, would have to go into the whole cultural and social and political and artistic history of the “Sixties, (which was quite a vast, traumatic, revolutionary time), and re-investigate a great many things that happened of an intellectual-symbolic nature, to find out what was the story behind it. Because a great deal more of it was manipulated than we realize” and one of the major things that was manipulated was the split between the psychedelic movement and the political, (that between(Timothy) Leary, say, and (Eldridge) Cleaver among other things). And that was done, according to Leary and according to Cleaver (though I haven’t yet seen the papers on it, but I heard from Leary, and I’ve seen it in underground papers, and, I understand, there was a story in Rolling Stone in October of (19)76 to the effect that when Leary was helped by the Weathermen to escape fromVacaville Prison in California, or wherever he was, on his twenty-year sentence for possession of a joint, he was then sent off to Algiers to take..refuge with Eldridge Cleaver. Do any of you remember that? Leary went to Algiers. Anybody not remember that here? (it’s alright if you don’t, that was all of ten years ago now, practically, seven years, and you were (maybe) twelve years old then!). So, and then, do you remember Cleaver arrested Leary and put him under house arrest, and said that Leary was too loud-mouthed, and (that) he was talking with FBI agents in the cafes of Algeria, and he was too frivolous, and, like, he was refusing to be part of  the world revolution, you’d better hear the clang of iron!  And then everyone was shocked, because what it meant was, “Well fuck (Timothy) Leary and Eldridge Cleaver, a bunch of egotists!, they can’t even get along!”, or “What does that mean? The psychedelic and the political are irreconcilable?”. “There were these fancy-headed psychedelic people wanting visions and there were these realistic, gun-toting, political people (“Power comes out of the barrel of a gun”), and we thought we had them together but it wasn’t together? In fact. Leary’s lawyer boasted when he left jail, boasted in the (Berkeley) Barb, that it was a true marriage of dope and dynamite, when Leary left with the Weathermen. And then there’s this denouement in Algiers, where they’re fighting amongst themselves. And so Michael Swerin of the Village Voice went over there and made a t.v. videotape of the two of them arguing, (the transcript of) which ran for two separate issues of the Village Voice, and it was like a class left-wing Movement intellectual poetry psychedelic scandal that they couldn’t get along and they were suspicious of each other, and what kind of revolution was this, and who was on who’s side? and was Leary wrong or was Cleaver wrong?

So it all boiled down to the fact that the FBI forged one of these letters from the Black Panthers in New York, ordering Cleaver to arrest Leary as a spy, which information only surfaced when Leary and Cleaver, both together in jail, had a Thanksgiving supper (I think it was in 1975) and began comparing notes.

[tape ends here – continues]

Student: Where’s Eldridge Cleaver these days?
AG:  He’s, I think, living in Texas
Student: Doing God spots.
AG: Yeah. Doing God spots. I think they drove him crazy. Would you? – Here’s an earlier.. I don’t have anything on that particular..
Student: (I know he) said he’d gone, but I didn’t know (it was) that far gone!
AG: Well, I wouldn’t worryHe probably knows what he’s doing.
Student: (Is he) out of jail?
AG: He’s out of jail, yeah.


Here’s a set from the FBI on Cleaver. This is from Jane Fonda‘s files, because she was sent a copy of a phony letter (this is an earlier, phony, forgery, letter). What it is is.. let’s see here, let’s get it in order.. What they were trying to do was make trouble between SNCC (Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee) and Eldridge Cleaver of the Panthers. They were trying to split the Panthers and Cleaver.

New York has suggested” – (This is COINTEL– again) – mailing of a suppose memorandum prepared by the current leader of SNCC, Muhammad (William) Hunt, and addressed to all SNCC workers and to various Black Panther officers, leaders, and certain BPP apologists” – (These files are Jane Fonda’s – the “BPP apologists” (the Black Panthers)) – “The memorandum is to enclose an article which appeared  the June 20th, 1970 issue of The Black Panther, as written by leader, Eldridge Cleaver, a Black Panther fugitive residing in Algeria, criticizing SNCC leader, Phil Hutchings as a do-nothing revolutionary. The supposed SNCC memorandum not only defends Hutchins’ status as a revolutionary, but severely criticizes Cleaver as a coward living in exile while the revolutionary struggle is carried on at home by SNCC and Hutchings. The proposed memorandum, submitted by New York, has been altered at the seat of government’ – (that’s Washington, that’s J.Edgar Hoover‘s office) – to indicate the BPP article was only recently brought to SNCC’s attention and to include a brief, final statement indicating the SNCC memorandum was also being brought to the attention of Cleaver and the Black Panther organization. This counter-intelligence activity is designed to further disrupt an already-strained relationship between the Black Panther Party and the SNCC”

And then there’s further correspondence – “This letter should be directed to the following individuals” – (including Jane Fonda) – and then the memorandum, signed by Hunt, Chairman of the RPC (Revolutionary Political Council),  from the SNCC office in Atlanta. It attaches a re-print, “in the Black Panther, Saturday, June 20th, 1970, page 9, recently brought to our attention”. This article contains a senseless..” – (this is the FBI forgery now) – “This article contains a senseless attack by Eldridge Cleaver on SNCC and Brother Phil Hutchins, a vanguard revolutionary. Eldridge Cleaver, now enjoying a self-imposed exile is an intellectual pimp. He believes that his Panther pussies are the only revolutionary group in Babylon. SNCC disputes this claim of leadership and his right to lead. SNCC has no quarrel with the revolutionary aspect of the Panther program and accepts their basic program as correct. However, we do dispute and detest the cult of personality created by certain Panther leaders about themselves – Cleaver, (Huey) Newton, (Bobby) Seale et al, while “Little Phil”, as Eldridge calls him, is in the vanguard of the revolution, Eldridge is safe and ineffective four thousand miles away. When a revolution is being made, the leadership consists of those who are fighting in the vanguard, no matter what the risk. Where were Fidel (Castro), Che (Guevara), Kim II Sung, Mao Tse Tung, Patrice Lumumba, when the revolutions were being made? They were with the people, not four thousand miles away from the front – like the FBI! –  So Mr…Cleaver, before you seek to criticize those of us who are engaged in making revolution in Amerikka – K-K-A  – M-E-R-I-K-K-A – you must establish your right to primacy. You must show by example, not by exile, how to wage revolution. You must, in short, become a credible revolutionary, SNCC believes strongly that the lackeys of the beast are as dangerous as the beast and that the masses of Blacks must be educated to recognize real leadership from mere allegation of leadership. SNCC accepts the challenge of revolutionary leadership and refuses to accept the criticism of Eldridge as valid. Until Eldridge returns to the wilderness of North Amerikka and joins in the day-to-day battle in Amerikka, we will continue to regard him as a coward. Love and Revolution, Yours in Struggle, Mohammed Hunt

So.. the FBI sent out copies of that to all local offices. And it says – “Enclosed for the Bureau Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Francisco are two copies each of a  letter aimed at disrupting any relationship which might exist between SNCC and the Black Panther Party. It is recommended that mimeographed copies of the enclosed letter be prepared and mailed by the Atlanta office, in view of Mohammed Hunt’s residence in that city. Mimeographed duplication is recommended, since SNCC’s apparent poor financial condition would mitigate it against any more expensive duplicating method” – They’re very smart!

Student: Allen?  Did the people take the time to see that and then write something encouraging that?  Did he (Ira Lowe) ever find out about that?

AG: I don’t know, I don’t know. All I have is all this stuff – and actually it was (from) ‘Roi, it was from LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) actually. The lawyer (Lowe) asked me to talk to (him) when I got back, and see if he could go through his files to see if the letters were actually printed, and what were the actual damages, and if they could sue. These are new, fresh, papers that I just got a month or two ago [1977]. They haven’t been in the newspapers.

There’s another one, to Army Archerd, well, it’s from FBI, to “the Director of the FBI from FBI Los Angeles, regarding Counter-Intelligence Program Black Nationalist Hate Groups – Racial Intelligence, Black Panther Party” – “Bureau authorities requested  in sending the following letter to Army Archerd, Hollywood gossip columnist for Daily Variety, who noted in her column that Jane Fonda, film actress, was to be present at a Black Panther fund-raising function sponsored by Committee to Help the Black Panthers (CHBP) in Los Angeles. It is felt that knowledge of Fonda’s involvement would cause her embarrassment and detract from her status with the general public” – “Dear Army” – (here’s the text) – I saw your article in the Daily Variety about Jane Fonda last Thursday and happened to be present at (Roger) Vadim’s “Joan of Arc” performance for the Black Panthers Saturday night. I hadn’t been confronted with this Panther phenomenon before, but we were searched upon entering Embassy Auditorium, encouraged in revival-like fashion to contribute to defend jailed Panther leaders and buy guns for “the coming revolution”. And led by Jane and one of the Panther chaps in a “We will kill Richard Nixon or any other m-f- who stands in our way” refrain, which was shocking to say the least. I think Jane has gotten in over her head as the whole atmosphere had the nineteen-thirties-Munich beer-hall aura. I also think my curiosity about the Panthers has been satisfied. Regards, Morris”. If approved, appropriate precautions will be taken to prelude the identity of the bureau as the source of this operation”

Student: Morris?

AG: Yeah that was “Morris”

Student: Did they publish it?

AG: “You are authorized to prepare a letter as send forth and mail to Army Archer. Ensure that mailing can’t be traced to the bureau” “Note. Analysis – Los Angeles proposes a letter from fictitious person be sent to Hollywood gossip columnist in the Daily Variety in a connection with a column indicating that Jane Fonda, noted film actress, would attend a Black Panther Party fund-raising function” – I think the funds were being raised for some kind of a fake frame(d)-up trial, anyway, to begin with, they’d probably got some Panther guy in trouble by busting him for grass, or..faking a shoot-out! – and then, she’s going to try and raise money, and now they’re trying to block that – “Proposed letter states the writer entering the function was searched upon entering, urged to contribute funds for jailed Panther leaders and buy guns for the coming revolution. Also Jane and other Panthers led the refrain, “We will kill Richard Nixon and any other motherfucker who stands in our way”. It can be expected that Fonda’s involvement with the Black Panther cause could detract from her status with the general public if reported in a Hollywood gossip column”. So approval was given.

A couple of other brief things here, from my own files, just, very short.
In March 16, 1970 – “To the Director of the FBI –  from SAC, Springfield. Subject – Appearance of Allen Ginsberg at Quincy College – Issue – Miscellaneous.  “Advise that Allen Ginsberg, billed as “the Hippie Poet” was scheduled to read poetry at Social Hall, Quincy College, Quincy, Illinois. This appearance is sponsored by the Quincy College Cultural Affairs Committeea faculty organization at Quincy College – Just a little note – It’s like they were following Ed (Sanders) around. So there were all these agents at poetry-readings too! – Amazing! – “1967, District Number 3, New York, September 28, 1967 – From (black-out, blanked-out narcotic agent) – Subject of this memorandum is photograph of Allen Ginsberg – Recommendation – Pending – Details – If report is over two pages in length, summarize in first paragraph – (1) On this date I received a photograph of Allen Ginsberg where he is pictured in an indecent pose. For possible future use the photograph has been placed in a locked sealed envelope, marked “Photograph of Allen Ginsberg”, General File – Allen Ginsberg. The locked, sealed envelope has been placed in a vault of this office for safe-keeping”

(Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning approximately eighty-seven minutes in and continuing to the end and here, continuing through to approximately ten minutes in.) 

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