Image from marxists.org
Cloyne Court, Episode 30
By Dodie Katague
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Rated "R" by the Author.
A creative memoir about Cloyne Court in Berkeley, California in the late 1970s
When the men walked off, she chided me. “Just because our house does things different, does not mean you have to disclose it or use it as a selling point. I would appreciate it if you would not use sex as a selling point.”
“I never mentioned the word sex,” I replied.
“You implied it by talking about the naked showers and nude sunbathing. Derek, you’re a nice guy, but you need to learn the business world will not accept sexual innuendo as a business tactic. I think an ethical America is above all that, don’t you?”
“Fine, I’ll do it however you want. I have thirty flyers left to hand out.”
I looked at the folding table set up directly across from us on the other side of the pathway with a large-red banner with the words ‘Workers Unite’ in black lettering taped to the side. It was the table for the Revolutionary Student Brigade.
The Revolutionary Student Brigade was a leftover faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Founded by Bob Avakian shortly after the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots in Chicago, the group espoused Marxist-Leninist-Maoist doctrine.
Sitting at the table was a young woman with long coffee-colored hair dressed in a black T-shirt with red stars on the front and a black beret. She was petite, barely five feet tall and didn’t look to be older than seventeen. She stood to take her turn in the center of Sather Gate near me.
“Rage against the US imperialist war machine! Support the class struggle against the petty bourgeois! Subscribe to The Revolutionary Worker!” She was loud.
The first page of the newspaper had a yellow circle with a red star and a silhouette of a figure holding a gun in the air.
“Live for the People. Die for the People.” She chanted at the passing people, who ignored her.
After ten minutes of slogans, I asked, “Have you sold any of the most ‘red’ newspaper on campus?” I hoped she’d see the humor in my double entendre.
“No, not yet. But that’s not the point,” she said.
“What is the point?”
“We are defending the interest of the masses. We’re trying to organize the oppressed from their oppressors. We believe the workers and the students will unite and continue the fight against the capitalistic power structure and embrace a Marxist-Leninist analysis for a people’s revolution!” She was yelling, as if the conversation was meant for the larger audience behind me.
“Don’t you think your group’s tactics of defending your views by any means necessary repels the majority of upper, middle-class white students who go here?”
“I’m a white, upper, middle-class high school student,” she said. “You don’t see me in bed with the lackeys of US imperialism.”
I didn’t see her in bed with anyone with that attitude. “You’re a high school student,” I said. “How old are you and what are you doing here?”
“I’m seventeen. I’m graduating early from Westgate High School. I’ll be at Berkeley next quarter. I have enough AP credit to graduate, so I don’t need more high school classes. I thought I’d get an early start on changing the world.”
“Your parents let you do this?”
“My parents are puppets of the imperialist war effort. My father knows I’m here over his objections. But he’s stuck in his corporate office in a tall skyscraper in San Francisco supporting the oppression of the working class. There’s nothing he can do to stop me.”
“You went to Westgate?” I asked. Westgate was the rival high school in a city near Briones Valley. The school had an outstanding debate team. I went to debate camp one summer and roomed with a geek from Westgate named Matt Brooks. His debate skills were legendary throughout the National Forensic League.
“Did you know Matt Brooks?” I asked. I couldn’t help myself. Don’t you hate it when you tell people you’re from California and they ask, ‘Do you know such and such?’ As if I would know all twenty-two million people in California, but here I was asking her.
“Matt Brooks,” she said. “He was my boyfriend last year, before he graduated.”
I was dumbfounded. Matt Brooks was not the type to have a girlfriend. He wore the thickest, black-plastic glasses in the geekdom universe. He dressed like a geek in short sleeve dress shirts buttoned to the neck, corduroy pants and Hush Puppy Penny Loafers. He was ambivalent about dating and the opposite sex. He never mentioned a girlfriend when he was my roommate during summer debate camp.
“Matt graduated last year and went off to Harvard. We might have stayed together if he hadn’t decided the Spartacus Youth League Trotskyite viewpoint was better attuned to his political beliefs. What a bourgeois decadent fascist,” she said.
The SYL was not as leftist as the Revolutionary Student Brigade. The RSB viewed anything to the political right of them as brown-shirt material. I didn’t need to ask where she thought the corporate blue suits with their yellow-power ties stood in the political dress-code spectrum.
I handed her a flyer for the Co-op. “When you’re ready to move out from your parents, consider Cloyne Court,” I said. “We have a bunch of Trotskyites living there now. They have regular meetings.” I was putting my self-interest lesson into practice. Only it was my self-interest this time, not hers. I liked her. I wanted to see more of her.
“My name is Derek. I’m glad to meet a friend of Matt Brooks.”
“And my name is Diane,” she said. She raised her hand in a black power salute.
“Want to help prevent the destruction of the International Hotel in San Francisco on Saturday?” she asked. “We’re taking a radical step to respond to a social injustice. We’re going to chain ourselves to the building, so they can’t bulldoze it. How about it?”
“No thanks, I’m not ready for radical change yet.”
“If not now, when?” she asked. That is a question I have often asked myself for the last twenty-five years.
 He’s now hiding in France from the FBI.
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