The Pacifica Radio/UC Berkeley
Social Activism Sound Recording Project
Anti-Viet Nam War Protests,
Responses to May 21, 1965 UC Berkeley Teach-In

[from Teach-Ins: U.S.A.: Reports, Opinions, Documents. Edited by Louis Menashe and Ronald Radosh. NY: Praeger, 1967. pp: 29-32]

The Teach-In at the University of California (Berkeley): A Refusal to Attend

Professor Robert A Scalapino

The May 21 meeting on the Berkeley campus is symbolic of the new anti-intellectualism that is gaining strength today.

A few individuals, most of whom would not dream of treating their own disciplines in this cavalier fashion, have sponsored a rigged meeting in which various ideologies and entertainers are going to enlighten us on Vietnam.

Only a handful of the performers have ever been to Vietnam or made any serious study of its problems. The objective is propaganda, not knowledge.

To lend some respectability to the performance, the organizers sought to give a few of us "guerilla" status in the show.

They urged us to appear, with ratios of up to 8 to 1 against us, and with our opponents being such individuals as the editor of the National Guardian, the international secretary of the Du Bois Clubs, the [San Francisco] Mime Troupe, and assorted jazz singers.

Can we be blamed if we did not want to lend our names and reputations to that effort?

This travesty should be repudiated by all true scholars irrespective of their views on Vietnam. It can only damage the reputation of Berkeley as an institution of higher learning.

Reply to Professor Scalapino

Professor Morris Hirsch (UC Berkeley, Dept. of Mathematics), Professor Stephen Smale (UC Berkeley, Dept. of Mathematics), and Jerry Rubin (graduate student).

Professor Scalapino, in slandering the organizers and speakers of Vietnam Day, to be held Friday and Saturday on the Berkeley Campus, has confused the purpose of the meeting to such an extent that one must it consider it deliberate.

The purpose of Vietnam Day is to present the Bay Area Community alternatives to current U.S. policy. The information and ideas that will be related on these days cannot be found in the the mass media, the State Department White paper, or even in university classrooms. We are contributing to democratic dialogue by expressing the views which, although widespread in Asia and Europe, are rare presented to the American people. Professor Scalapino calls such an objective "propaganda."

Professor Scalapino has implied that the only people who are qualified to discuss Vietnam in public are academic or State Department experts on Vietnam. We do have such technical experts on the program: Professor Stanley Sheinbaum, who designed the strategic-hamlet program for the Government, but now regrets it, is only one example. But to restrict public discussion to "experts" leads to a dangerous elitism because, in the end, decisions on foreign policy are based on value judgments, not just on a simple recording of facts. The issues in Vietnam are too important to be settled by Cold War gamesmanship or academic hairsplitting. One of the purposes of Vietnam Day is to transfer the discussion from the RAND Corporation to the streets.

But, more important than this, the problem of Vietnam is the problem of the soul of America. What the State Department is doing in our name in Vietnam is tied directly to Alabama, the Dominican Republic, the state of freedom of the press in American, and the scope of our literature. We think that people like Bob Parris, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Norman Mailer, and Dr. Benjamin Spock have much to say that is relevant to Vietnam.

Professor Scalapino makes much of the fact that we have included entertainers in the program. Had he bothered, he would have counted less than three hours of entertainment scattered throughout the main program. He conveniently juxtaposes speakers and entertainers and calls them "performers." Which of our speakers does Professor Scalapino consider entertainers or performers? Senator Gruening? Isaac Deutscher, world-renowned writer on the Soviet Union? Bertrand Russell? Ruben Brache, the representative of the Dominican rebels in the United States? Professor Marvin, Chairman of the International Relations Department, San Francisco State College? Bui Van Anh, Counselor of the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington?

We offered Professor Scalapino and Professor [Eugene] Burdick, who attacked us yesterday, as much time as they wanted at any hour. If they fear the public will be misinformed, they do the public a great disservice by attacking the meeting instead of participating in it as others who support the State Department are doing.

They refuse to take part because they fear four aspects of the meeting:

1. Vietnam Day is giving a platform to intellectuals who are not favored by the State Department, as Professor Scalapino is, but who, nevertheless, have much to say about Vietnam: peole like Robert Scheer, Staughton Lynd, Dave Dellinger, M.S. Arnoni, Edward Keating, and Felix Greene.(1)

2. The meeting goes beyond the narrow definition of an academic expert and challenges the authority of professors Scalapino and Burdick.

3. The meeting will spread some dangerous ideas to masses of people.

4. The protest movement against the war is successful and is spreading

One week the State Department, well aware of the nature of the program, promises to send speakers. The next week they back out, giving as an excuse "lack of balance," thereby helping to create the very imbalance they say they oppose. Why are professors Scalapino and Burdick and the State Department afraid to take the best time in our program and face an audience which has just heard fresh and unconventional ideas on Vietnam? Are they afraid that in this atmosphere their clichés, apologies, and academic excuses for injustice will be exposed?


(1)Robert Scheer: Contributing editor, The Nation. Currently contributing editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the author, with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry, of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq, published by Akashic Books and Seven Stories Press.

Staughton Lynd: (1892-1970)American sociologist. He taught at Columbia for 30 years (193161). With his wife, Helen Merrell Lynd, he authored two noted sociological studies of Muncie, Ind., Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture, (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937). Lynd was active in labor and civil-rights movements, and wrote Knowledge for What? (1939).

Dave Dellinger: (1915-2004). Renowned pacifist and activist for nonviolent social change, and one of most influential American radicals in 20th century. He was most famous for being one of the Chicago Seven, a group of protesters whose disruption of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to charges of conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting a riot. The ensuing court case was turned by Dellinger and his co-defendants into a nationally-publicized platform for putting the Vietnam War on trial. On February 18, 1970, they were found guilty of conspiring to incite riots but the charges were eventually dismissed by an appeals court due to errors by US District Judge Julius Hoffman. []

M.S. Arnoni: (1922-1985). Philosopher, writer, political activist, and professor of political science. After being a professor at various American universities, he left the USA in 1969 because of its intervention in Vietnam and his disappointment with the New Left, and moved to Israel, where he advised the government on foreign policy. From 1971 until his death, he lived in The Netherlands.

Edward Keating: (d. 2003) The founder and publisher of Ramparts, a leading left-wing magazine in the 1960s.

Felix Greene: author and film producer [The Enemy: What every American Should Know About Imperialism. <1971>; Vietnam! Vietnam! <1966>; Inside North Vietnam (documentary) <1967>]

Return to Vietnam/Anti-War Chronology

This website copyright (C) 1996 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley. All rights reserved.
All recordings (C) by Pacifica Radio All rights reserved.
Document maintained on server: by
Gary Handman, Head, Media Resources Center.
Last update 02/24/09 (gh)

MRC web graphics by Mary Scott, Graphics Office, The Teaching Library