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April 16, 1972 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1972-04-16
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k 4 - 4

' ;

t4;

Post prison notes

with John

Sinclair,

The Godfather:

Violence i

Question: A year ago, while
you were still in prison, you
wrote a review for The Daily
on Charles Reich's "Greening of
America." Would you like to say
something about what changes
have taken place since then?
John Sinclair: Well, a year
ago when my "Greening of
America" piece was written we
were moving into this intensive
period. Three weeks after the
piece was published we announ-
ced the disbanding of the White
Panther -party, and the forma-
tion of the Rainbow People's
Party. We announced that our
priorities were going to be in
local community work, in build-
ing alternative institutions, in
developing the tribal council as
an alternative political social in-
stitution, and we were going to
come out and set up community
.service programs. The newspaper
was one of them. We were com-
mitted to putting it out regular-
ly. It came out weekly for sev-
eral issues and now biweekly.
All of that worked. The points
we were trying to make were the
kind of things I was saying in
the Greening of Amerika, that
changing consciousness wasn't
enough, that it's going to take a
struggle, that reactionaries are-
n't going to let this massive
change in consciousness take
place. And not just conscious-
ness; but the manifestations of
that, the actual way people live,
the actual way they organize
production and organize their
lives, they're not going to stand
by and let this happen without
a struggle. And the struggle has
ben going on. People have been
killed for living this way, and
people like myself, Skip, Jack,
and many other "people were in
the penetentiary, for promoting
the kind of consciousness and
the kind of values that were
glorified and codified by Char-
les Reich in his book, which ev-
eryone was picking up on, say-
ing it's groovy, it's all happen-
ing, nothing can stop them . .
that's what we said in 1967.
And we learned very painfully
... that the reactionaries could-
n't stop it, that didn't mean
they weren't going to try to stop
it and we would have to be pre-
pared to pay for it. Those -are
the things I laid out in my
piece. And I would say, that in
the year since then has been
based on those principles and

(Continued from Page 10)
merely decaled the movies of
the period as Peter Bogdariovich
is doing these -days. His is neo-
classicism in thebest sense: a
reshaping of the formula. And
his film is really a poetry of the
decade's images in much t h e
same way that Agee described
Birth of a Nation as a visual
reification ofiour mental pic-
tures of the Civil War,
The elder statesmafi. of the
age and its holy spirit in the
criminal world is Don Vito Cor-
leone, the Godfather of the title.
Corleone is one of the few vet-
Borges in
Ame rica
(Continued from Page 3
unreal. Because reality includes
everything. It i n c 1 u d e s the
dreams that I had this morn
ing. the dreams I forgot when
I awoke, it includes my child
hood memories, and of course
oblivions, in fact. it should in
clude everything. Not least lan
guage.
Language is a very curious in
vention. We put them in diction
aries because we think of lan
guages as sets of similes. O
course, they're not. Every lan
guage is a different way of feel
ing the world. We are deceive
by dictionaries.
- Q: How do you feel abou
leading a literary life?
Borges: My English forefath
ers were professors, teachers
thinkers, quite literary men. Bu
my other forefathers were mili
tary men. When I was a youn
man, I was foolish enough t
think that they had led rea
lives. And I felt very remorse
ful about it. I said to myself
were I a real man, I would hav
died in action in 1874. But, i
seems that I am living now, i1
the 1920's, or so. Were I a rea
man of action I would hav
fought the Spaniards, the Bra
zilians . . . I would have kille
my man, or my men, I suppose
And I am a mere literary man.
. ,.I will say, that there i
perhaps but a single moment i
one's life, the moment when on
discovers who one is . . . espe
cially when we find out ou
essential limitations. And tha
moment will be a turning poin
for our whole lives.
For example, it has taken m
a very long time to discover tha
I am merely a man of letter
And to be a man of letter
after all, is to be something-
something-not to be admire
but not to be despised by yot
It is a way of existence. Bu
after all, since I am blind, thi
is the one form of life left t
me. Literature, and of cours
friendship, and perhaps the po
sible hope of personal love. Bu
being 72, I am greatly daring i
saying this.
graphics

erans of the first great gang war
that flared back when beer bar-
ons were establishing their
duchies. Now, fifteen years lat-
er, he has power, wealth, leis-
ure. He has moved, significant-
ly, from his old haunting ground
in New York City's Little Italy
to a Long Beach suburb, a n d
like any doting papa he waits
for the day when his son San-
tino can take over the family
business, retiring the old Don
to his garden and his grand-
children. Life has beengvery
good to Corleone but he under-
stands the -compromises that
made it all possible. Echoing
Little Caesar, he says wistfully,
"I refuse to be a tfooldancing
S on a string held by all those big
shots. I don't apologize. It's my
life."
Robert Warshow once labelled
Alan Ladd's Shane "hardly a
man at all, but something like
the Spirit of the West," and
doubtless there will be some
termite art cultists who will
level the same charge at Cor-
leone. Spirit of the Mafia. Grant-
ed there is always the danger
that masscult aestheticized (and
The Godfather is certainly aes-
theticized) will become a self-
conscious mishmash of Simple
Truths. The Godfather manages
~ to avoid that trap because Cor-
~ leone is. to his family as well
f as to us, a mythic presence, and
- the film diesn't waste time es-
tablishing t h i s mythology. We
d don't have to romanticize it; we
know it. We've seen it in other
t films. We can sense in his car-
riage and his hoarse voice that
- Corleone is a man who has
' fought the battles and won.
Much of his greatness can be
- credited in equal parts to Marlon
C Brando's performance (if not his
o best, still exceptional) and to
l Brando's own persona, since he
is a cultural icon as well as an
, actor. Brando by no means dom-
e inates the film, which is one
t reason why the aestheticizing is
n checked; he is held in reserve,
l pulled out when the fil mneeds
e his great face to register the
- sonquences of an action. His
d three arias-his daughter's wed-
ding, his tears in a funeral
parlor where he takes Santino's
s body, his own death-are the
n markers of the decade and the
e signposts of the old gangster's
decline.
tr
t And yet the film really cen-
t ters not so much around the
Don as around his youngest son

Michael (Al Pacino) - a stock
character in the gangster can-
on, the other side of the Ameri-
can Dream: He has matured
since the 30s. from the hoodlum's
handsome young brother to the
son of Horatio Alger; bene-
ficiary of his father's hard climb,'
he is Ivy League, a war hero
(patriotism as in Public Enemy
and The Roaring 20s seems to
signify the final assimilation),
and fiance to a New Hampshire
blueblood. Having been singled
out by his father to become the
first "legitimate" Corleone, he
has, in short, been disassociated
from his family. His girlfriend
is incredulous at the Don's ac-
tivities. .Michael reassures her,
"That's my family, Kay. It's
not me."
When trouble brews in the
business world, though, the dis-
association doesn't stick. One of
the gangs wants the Don's pro-
tection and finance for its new
operation. C o r 1 e o n e refuses,
thereby violating the old con-
vention that a boss must never
rest on his laurels. The refusal
triggers the Second Gang War,
and Michael, seeing his family
under seige, cannot remain neu-
tral. After committing himself to
the fray and revenging an at-
tempt on his father's life, he is
sent to Sicily for hiding; and it
is there, in the dusty peasant
villages that contrast with the
pace and color of New York,
that Michael gets reinitiated into
his Sicilian heritage. His two
bodyguards yell at passing jeep
carrying American soldiers. Mi-
chael, a soldier himself just a
short while ago, doesn't bat an
eyelid. He has become Italian.
But if Michael has been re-
enthnicized by his long stay in
Sicily, his return to America as
heir to his father's empire spells
another initiation-the initiation
of his family (and the Family)
into the new American Way of
Life. Michael is a businessman,
and he has less taste for rackets
than for legitimate acquisition,
though- one of the film's sillier
points is that the leap from
banditry to business is a very
short one. Once again, the re-
spectable is associated with the
criminal, as it was in the 30s
gangster pictures and in the tra-
ditionally close resemblance of
hoodlum to cop. The Five Fami-
lies hold their peace-making ses-
sion in a bank board room,
against the backdrop of a huge
roalroad mural that can't help

but recall the robber barons
an earlier day. One gang c
even settles an argument m
the decidedly capitalist c
ment, "After all, we're not c
munists."
These are the early harbing
of the underworld's impend
transformation. With Micha
ascension to power, we know
Coppola knows that the gro
rules have been changed.
chael assumes the reins not
the traditional rites of manl
-the garrotings, machine-g
nings, pistol-whippings-but
inheritance; and he only.prc
himself after he has been
stalled by his father. There
signficance too in what the -
has come to mean. The g2
sters of the early 30s invario
had monikers and these ser
as a kind of alter ego. Dy
Little Caesar asks, "oMthe:
God, is this the end of Ric
because he sees his career
terms of a third person (the
mate alienation) and real
that another tough will soon
his mantle. When Bogart's
Earle bursts upon the scene
ter the old crime structure
cracked, he bristles at the n(
papers headlining him "
Dog;" a status label has bee
a media tag. With Michael
see neither a status label n<
media tag but the institutic
ization of rank. Like his fa
before him, Michael is "
Corleone."
The triumph of Whyte's Or
ization Man over the orgar
tion's man has one other
tremely important consequ
for the gangster film: In el
Fourth Ai
217
Fo1
In A
OPEN
We Tak(

and other things, like people's
hospitals. If this happens it's
really nice, but what it repre-
sents politically . . . then you
would have a base right, and
you'd have a mass movment of
all th Rainbow people and the
Blacks and other - oppressed
minority peoples, and large
masses of what we would call
American people, straight peo-
ple. So that you would be rela-
tively secure. So there would be
in effect, within Michigan . . .
this area, this revolutionary-
based area so to speak.

"People have been killed for living this
way, people like myself. Skip, Jack, and many
other people were in the penitentiary, for
promoting the kind of consciousness and the
kind of values that were glorified and codi-
fied by Charles Reich in his book . .
5 ":f l: f.. 44f ""L":"::"'::'::::""r::"" ""a: ::: ::i a:"":."": a :G

goes back to those principles
because the work that we do is-
n't just sociology. Community
service work, that's going to be
the solution, you know, we have
a free people's clinic and that's
going to handle medical prob-
lems . To take care ofhthese
people, that'll be it, we have a
food coop, vegetables will win,
all of that kind of thing.
We're trying to put work in a
clearcut context, which we con-
tinually try to redefine by writ-
ing statements, formal party
statemnts in the paper, so some
people can understand what
we're doing, so that all the work
w're doing will be placed within
a context of revolutionary strug-
gle, protracted struggle. These
activities are not just to deal
with their needs but also to cre-
ate an organized strength which
increasingly can deliver the peo-
ple from the whole .. . mater-
ialistic order. In other words,
w don't say, okay, even if we
develop Ann Arbor into a really
exemplary community, with peo-
ple's institutions--which we in-
tend to do-the university in-
creasingly coming in with the
community as a whole, with the
hospitals increasingly forced to
be more and more socialistic,

Do you now consider Ann Ar-
bor as your operational base?
J.S. Oh definitely, we insist
on that. We insist on that on a
national level, now that we exist
as part of the national move-
men-because we got John Len-
non and Bobby Seale ... our
credentials are impeccable . .ur
Bobby Seale comes to Ann Ar-
bor, and essentially runs down
the White Panther Party 10-
point program of 1968, which in
1968 was blasphemy and cant
. . everything free for every-
body' . . . so now, people are
saying 'we want you- tocome for
a two week conference,' two
weeks! Maybe a day . . . We
gotta get back, tribal council
meeting, put on a dance, de-
fense committee meeting, the
elections, food coop . . . so- we
insist on it . . . and the whole
point of it is we have ideas and
theories about methods of revo-
lutionary social change. Every-
body has ideas, you know, and
ideas are all equal, because
they're just something some-
body says . . . but social prac-
tice being the criterion of truth,
we decided the only way to do it
was to try out -our theories and
practice in this particular 10-

cality. Then, if these things
work, we can abstract it to a
higher level, and say if we can
do it here, maybe this will work
in Detroit . . .
Q. Do you see going back to
Detroit yourself?
J.S. Oh we already have a
committment to Detroit. We
have an initial commitment to
this whole state .. .
Q: But I mean basing your-
self in Detroit.
J.S.: Moving back there?
Don't be ridiculous . . . Detroit,
nobody should have to live in
Detroit. We're able not to live
there, so we got out. Actually,
we were run out of Detroit,
more or less. We're working
now with Detroit people . . .
trying to transfer our skills and
abilities to this cadre of people
in Detroit - -
Maybe soon we'll set up a par-
ty chapter in Detroit, to recruit
people, and train them, that's in
the future. Right now, our main
goal is to set up a separate
autonomous Ann Arbor chapter
of the party which would be our
cadre. Get them set up in their
own house, with their own eco-
nomic base, so they'll start re-
cruiting their own cadre. We are
already 19 people doing the work
that's necessary.
Q.: Did being in prison change
your view a lot?
J.S.: It's hard to say, because
I know, the one think that I did
that already changed me in pri-
son . . . was studying, thinking.
Now, I haven't read anything, I
can't even keep up with the pa-
pers, I'm always on the go. But
there I read four or five news-
papers a day, including The
Daily. In the first year, at Mar-
quette, I had almost unlimited
access to books, I studied daily
. . I had a job in the laundry,
I worked in the mornings, but
in the afternoons I would go
back in. I stayed in most of the
time, I didn't go in the yard
much. Except some periods I
had study groups going . . .
Q: What did you read?
J.S. Well, I justrset out to
give myself a revolutionary edu-
cation . . . My roots are in the
whole hippie-beatnik, freak cul-
ture. That's what we came out

of -and our politics, not to say
we didn't have any politics, but
our politics were just politics of
. . alienation, rejection.
The White Panther party turn-
ed us on to the Red Book in the
spring of 1969, and said you got
to read this, so we started read-
ing this . . . carried it around
in our pockets all the time . . .
But then we'd been through the
writings of Eldridge Cleaver,
and Huey P. Newton, who we'd
almost memorized, you know,
Malcolm X . . . but not any-
thing systematic, you know, just
the popular books would come
out andt we'd say "Hey, this is
really great!" Eldridge Cleaver
was a great turning point. He
seemed to be the first person in
the black movement or in any
radical movement who under-
stood what rock and roll was all
about, outside of the yippies,
who didn't understand what ev-
erything was about.
When I went into the pene-
tentiary . . . I said, well, we
used to get into arguments with
all these people, and we'd be
trying, the White Panther Party
was a really conscious attempt
to unite what we called the mass
culture movement and the rela-
tively miniscule new left politi-

for us, they wanted to get into
it. But people in the movement,
they didn't want to hear it. Eith-
er it was co-optation, or rev.lu-
ionary hype, which is appropri-
ately enough a title they got
from Time magazine, which is
what they called the MC-Five,
revolutionary hype, you know,
. . instead of saying, wow,
these people are really far out,
they're really taking a giant step
forward, moving with our posi-
tion . . . they make noise . . .
I started reading all the revo-
lutionary literature I could get
my hands on . . . starting with
the Wretched of the Earth and
The Selected Works of Mao Tse
Tung. I read the Red Book every
day, over and over again . . .
What is to be done? by Lenin.
That was one of the first ones
that I read. Then I started all
the writings of Che Quevara,
speeches of Castro, Ho Chi Minh
on revolution, ' all the Lenin
books I could find . . . all the
stuff that I could get my hands
on.
Q.: Did they just let you read
and discuss those books in the
prison?
J.S.: Well, they didn't know
what the deal was. In Jackson

expanding to fill all
your needs...
the UNIVERSITY Ci
Come see us for books, all kinds an all new chil

"... My roots are in the whole hippie-
beatnik, freak culture. That's what we came
out of and our politics, not to say we didn't
have any politics, but our politics were just
politics of .. . alienation, rejection."
Y.YJ1"X.: :::"": "I:.":::4:.,.:4t }"M.K}::YR # e i::: ":i " :.}:}"t~e ii Ri":; l :}L".^:::r0l

tion, crafts, the latest fiction and non fiction,

etc.,

cal movement, and that was
what the whole White Panther
thing was about, supposed to be
a dialectical thing. Now kids in
the street related to the media.
Kids who went to the rock and
roll dances and stuff like that,
we'd talk about revolution and
Eldridge Cleaver and Huey P.
Newton and the White Panther
Party and this and that and Ho
Chi Minh, they loved it . . . we
distributed about 20,000 White
Panther buttons in the Detroit
area in a period of a month and
a half, because kids were just
deep into it ... kids were ready

they don't. They enforce the
rules. I don't know why they did
it, just stupid I guess. There was
a bunch of black inmates related
to the Black Panther Party and
I was helping them organize
themselves, and we set up study
classes, and the people's library
where we combined all these
books . . . The education officer
was in charge of circulating the
books and keeping track of ev-
erything, we'd discuss them in
the yard, and everything like
that.
Q: Was this feeling pretty
-(Continued on Page 12)

kawashima

0a
31 uMti . mail i . u i

also ... hardware, art and photographic sup
sundres, records, knitting, weaving and macramE
and offset services, cokes by the case, posters, ca
... all at great discount prices.4
the university cellar in
the union basement

- '.1

Pale Four THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Sunday, April 16, 1914 Sunday, April 16, T197A

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