Friday Night — Eve Hinderer — Lower East Side Anarchists and Women's Liberation — 12.08.06

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Friday Night — Eve Hinderer — Lower East Side Anarchists and Women’s Liberation
1. About this Friday night
2. About Eve Hinderer
3. Interview with Jorge from Barricada Collective
4. Useful Links
1. About this Friday night
What: talk + discussion
Where: 16 beaver str. 4th floor (directions below)
When: Friday Night 12.08.06 @ 19:30
A few years ago, Alan, one of the regulars at 16Beaver put us in touch with Eve. At the time, we put together an evening with Ben Morea, who has since been a good friend. Subsequently, we had plans with Eve to organize some other evenings and to try and reconnect to individuals who were a critical part of a history of resistance in this city. Those evenings never quite manifested (yet), but we have managed to organize something with Eve herself.
A founding member of New York Radical Women, circa ’67-’68, Eve will speak on the beginnings of Women’s Liberation as well as on the ’60s Lower East Side Anarchist community. She hopes those in attendance will be able to use her as a resource for a broader discussion on continuity of involvement: knowing that the personal and political interpenetrate, how do we avoid the extremes of rage and withdrawal and stay engaged with the issues of our time.
2. About Eve
The following is an excerpt taken from a biographical sketch intended for the Sophia Smith Collection where Eve’s papers are being collected.
“… All of this lasted until sometime into my first year at the City College of New York, where I first ran into left wing ideology, and began associating with the ‘commies’ my mother had warned me against. The south campus cafeteria in fact, was a den for left political radicals of every stripe. This was my first encounter with the alphabet soup of PL, the SWP, along with the WEB DuBois club, the Spartacist League, etc. I faced my first intellectual dilemma in feeling all these groups to be completely foreign to me ideologically, but feeling drawn to the rebellion they represented. At the same time that I was mingling with this radical population, my life at home with a verbally abusive father had reached a crisis, and at the age of 17 in 1965, I became a runaway.
During this brief interlude of attempted freedom, I became dependent on some of the people I had met at school, still not understanding the political philosophy they all seemed to embrace. Mel Maurer put me up in his apartment in the Bronx until I made the mistake of contacting my family and telling them where I was. When my uncle threatened to charge Mel with statutory rape if I remained with him, I agreed to return home. At this juncture, it was decided I would leave school and spend time with my godmother Eve DeForest in Daytona Beach, Florida.
This sojourn with my godmother, in fact, sowed the seeds of my first bout of mental illness. She seemed to find nothing but character defects whereas my cronies back in school saw only the attractiveness of youthful rebellion. Unsurprisingly, I cut my visit ‘short’ after three months, promising Eve DeForest that I was done forever with those things that would hurt her and my parents, and return home and to school.
After about a year of following through on these promises, I was suffering from panic attacks and anxiety and was ready to enter therapy for the first time. Since my family made it clear I would have to pay for these services out of my own pocket, I started work with Marjory Newstrand at $7.00/hour, twice a week.
By that time, however, the damage my parents feared had been done, as I had been exposed to the body of thought known as Anarchism. A wooly-haired denizen of the South Campus cafeteria at CCNY had introduced me to the New York Federation of Anarchists. I would travel down from Yorkville where I had returned to live with my parents, to the East Village where I would join in the Federation’s nightly shared meals. (It was my first introduction to organic brown rice and macrobiotics. ) In the emphasis on community and personal liberation I found the missing links between my previous [right-wing] libertarianism and the concerns of the left wing. For anarchists, revolution embraced desire and need, the individual and community. In its’ emphasis on personal transformation as the starting point for revolutionary theory and practice, anarchism resolved my conflict between the left’s concern for justice and the libertarian emphasis on the individual. I took refuge in the tenets of anarchism…”
To read the full version:
3. Interview with Jorge from Barricada Collective
Eve Hinderer is a new supporter of NEFAC. She was involved in the Anarchist and Feminist Movements in New York City in the late 60’s. This interview serves to illustrate some of her observations from her experiences, and attempts to draw lessons to be learned by anarchists today. She discusses the relationship between the personal and political aspects of anarchism, and left-wing militants of the time.
What groups were active in New York City at the time?
Lower Manhattan was pretty much the hotbed of revolutionary activity in the late 60’s. Up Against the Wall Motherfucker and the Anarchos collective were two main groups, and represented two very different strains of anarchism.
I thought of the ‘Motherfuckers’ as an anarchist street gang, and in fact Ben Morea himself defined an affinity group as a “street gang with an analysis.” Black Mask was the broadside Morea initially produced for 10 issues from November of ’66 to May of ’68 before he started the Motherfuckers. He used it as a forum to oppose white culture, saying “A revolution which will bring about a society where the arts will be an integral part of life, as in primitive society, and not an appendage to wealth.”
Ben then discontinued Black Mask, declaring that the Motherfuckers had transcended it, and that the real call was “into the streets.” The guiding intellect of the Anarchos group was Murray Bookchin, with all the formulations he was making at the time about ‘post-scarcity anarchism.’ Anarchos actually referred to the magazine the group was publishing. Almost all the articles were by Murray, some with different pen names, as I recall. There was one article on ‘Totality’ written by Alan Hoffman, who I first met during the days of the New York Federation of Anarchists, circa 1965.
The New York Federation of Anarchists was active in mid 60’s in lower Manhattan and represented a kind of bridge between the ’50s beats and the new ‘hippie’ culture. I took part in some of their communal meals they had regularly.
I wanted to talk about “Motherfucker crossover”: at the same time that there were these two collectives there were also the Yippies. They were very much
into using the media–they wanted to become mainstream to have more of an
impact. The yippies tactically weren’t as specialized as the Anarchos or Motherfucker.
One incident I was involved in was the yip-in at Grand Central terminal in February 1968. I got up on top of the info booth and got the hands of the clock off and yelled out “Up against the wall Motherfucker!” Immediately after, people wooed and started playing the drums. And of course the police charged. I got one of my shoes caught on the grillwork and instead of leaving without it, I struggled to recover it and jumped down into the arms of two plainclothes policemen.
Which of these groups did you chose? Why?
I was initially in the orbit of the Anarchos group because of the relationship I had with Steven Brownstein. We lived together for about 3 months early in 1967 at 32 Avenue B, which no longer exists. That fall, after he and I returned from our trip to the West Coast, Michael Brownstein and his wife Sandy took an apartment in the same building. This formed the nucleus of the Anarchos collective. As far as Ben Morea and the Up Against the Wall Motherfucker collective, I’m not even certain when I first met them. I moved back to the Lower East Side from where I had been staying with my parents uptown. I took an apartment on 4th Street East of Avenue B, in order to be close to the Anarchos group. As the year began to unfold there were tensions in the group because of its predisposition to ‘nonmonogamous’ relationships. Basically everything blew up in my face. All of this is to say, however, that regardless of my relationships with the Brownsteins, I had situated myself on the Lower East side and this was my connection to the anarchist community, including Ben Morea, who were active there at the time.
What about SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), could you talk a bit more about the dichotomy of strains
within it?
SDS was open to outside groups, not only students. I remember at a SDS
meeting in NYC where both the Motherfuckers and PL (Progressive Labor) were present, Ben (Morea) said, in reference to the PL: “each of us changes a little bit when we come to meetings, but these people don’t change at all.”
I don’t know what happened to SDS to make it fall apart, but at the Ann Arbor convention of June 1968 the tensions were evident. There were three lines of people lined up to speak into microphones, one at either side of the auditorium and one in the middle. It almost seemed to me from what people were saying that the three conflicted positions within SDS were represented by the different lines: the nascent Weatherman, the hardline Marxists (PL) on either side, and those who were naive to think the organization could be saved from its own internal conflicts in the middle.
People like Bernadine Dohr and Bill Ayers were present at this conference.
They were to be instrumental in forming the Weather underground. It’s interesting in thinking back on it now that although Weatherman may well have been influenced by an insurgent group like the Motherfuckers, I don’t know if they consciously identified with the anarchist tradition. They literally went underground and involved themselves in various kinds of direct action, including property damage and bombs.
There was also a woman’s action, which I took part in planning. The initial idea was to kidnap someone from the speaker’s platform, which I thought was marvelous, and I even had this image of throwing a net over the speaker and dragging him away. But by the time the group agreed on how to proceed, I was embarrassed by how ineffectual I thought it would be and didn’t participate. All that happened was that some of the women interrupted the speakers and caused a minor commotion.
The 60’s were a bit of a pressure cooker, and right around the years 1967-68
a lot of things came to a head. The Vietnam war and the movement opposing it were becoming a greater part of the popular consciousness. The war was the backdrop for all kinds of revolutionary activity, and many different people and ideas participated in the anti-war movement. And the war was such an atrocity that a lot of us felt like we were ready to totally oppose the US government. This was the context in which Weatherman evolved. They took their cues from the anarchists, the yippies, the Motherfuckers and literally went underground
Could you talk about the New York Radical Women?
The group started out of a Princeton SDS conference in the fall 1967. I had
just come back from my cross-country trip. There was a workshop on women’s
liberation at the conference that interested me. About fifty women were there in the room. Immediately, I found myself opening up, contributing. We all felt that we were onto something. Pamela Allen was one of the women that took part of this meeting, she invited other people to her apartment later that year to further the discussion. So in November that year, in her apartment in NY the group got started. My involvement in it only lasted for a year, from November 67 through to the fall of ’68.
Politically, how would you define the New York Radical Women, and how did
you introduce those politics into the Women’s Liberation movement?
Well, we started the Women’s Liberation movement! There was no movement hen we met! We were all very determined. One of the things that the group developed was consciousness raising. We discussed and developed a political analysis to see where the oppression came from. It was hard overcoming a feeling that our problems as women were somehow inferior to those of African Americans whose oppression was more ‘objectively’ based. What we were suffering from was nothing but the internalized oppression that Franz Fanon elaborated on in his theoretical work. We kept meeting up against a roadblock that our problems were all ‘personal.’ That’s when I finally came out with the formulation “the personal *is* the political.” This is true of all oppressed groups. The movement that takes place in consciousness raising from deeply felt worthlessness to an understanding of a shared oppression is essential for liberation. There was no question that all of us in the group were determined to surmount any and all obstacles in starting a movement of liberation. This formulation just better enabled us to make the bridge from self-scrutiny to a revolutionary consciousness.
Women came into this group with different resources. I, for example, was
working class, I didn’t know about the suffragist movement, and I hadn’t heard
the word ‘feminist’ before. Other women came from the civil rights movement,
and brought that struggle with them. Still others had studied women’s
history, and brought that along. There were conflicts of different agendas,
which was very distressing to me because I valued the dynamic of the group
itself as a revolutionary form of organization. We were originally about
community, mutual support, and intellectual stimulation. So when the group began to fall apart and developed into something much larger in about a year’s time, I was personally devastated. I felt that the opportunity for me to ontribute to the group was no longer there so I dropped out. I identified as a evolutionary anarchist, but I don’t know that other women of the group really were part of other political organizations. People were politicized, but weren’t necessarily part of a political group.
What were the positive and negative aspects of these groups? Why did you
eventually leave them?
I felt betrayed by the Anarchos group. Even as I began to act on the group
imperative to have non-exclusive relationships, I was told by Sandy, with
whom I had otherwise enjoyed a close affinity as a friend, “Let’s not get
our cocks and cunts mixed up.” You ask me what lessons are to be learned
from my experience. Perhaps this one was the most profound: to take full
responsibility for all your relationships. I would think that would be
critically important as the need to form collectives becomes more
compelling. I never really left the Motherfuckers–I left the entire Lower
East side the following summer (1968) when I made yet another
jaunt cross-country. In the fall of that year, I became friendly with some other
self-identified anarchists like Sherry Milner and Julius Silverman. But I
was out of the orbit of Black Mask/Motherfuckers. I did some indexing work
for Murray in the fall of ’68. It is important to note that at this time, Motherfuckers
were facing “48 criminal charges with penalties ranging from 10 days to 10 years.”
Could you elaborate on the relationship between Ben Morea and Murray
Bookchin as far as their political/tactical outlooks were concerned?
I remember one meetings on Avenue B in the fall of ’67. The room was packed with people. Murray
(Bookchin) and Ben (Morea) were sitting, directly opposite each other, at
the front of the apartment. They were debating anarchist strategy. I know
Ben was arguing for direct action. I clearly remember Murray arguing: “how
was Ben going to achieve his goal, taking a hammer and chisel to a building
on Wall Street?”
Murray’s erudition has always very much impressed me. He was a
man of ideas, who tried to make revolutionary theory accessible by
bringing people out of the dead-end of traditional leftism into a more open-minded
assessment of what change could be like.
Ben was a man of action on the other hand. The Motherfuckers were centered
around revolutionizing white youth, feeling that the hip movement of the time embodied revolutionary ideals.
Reading about this organizing tactic years later, I had mixed reactions to
it. But I very much respect the anarchist principle involved–we are the masses!
If you wanted a simple comparison of the MOs of Murray and Ben, you could say that whereas Ben would [creatively] disrupt an SDS meeting, Murray–who did not attend them, by the way–would extemporize on theory or perhaps sell copies of Anarchos.
Could you comment on the class/background of the anarchist/radical left-wing
movement back then, especially referring to a movement mostly limited to
students instead of working people?
I think one of the reasons I dropped out of women’s liberation as early as I
did–the fall of ’68–was that coming from a working class background, I
brought with me a substantial difference in background and education. For instance, I had
no historical understanding of what had preceded our group in [women’s]
history. When we met at Rosalyn Baxandall’s apartment on St. Mark’s Place,
she had a collage in her bathroom composed of photos of the suffragist
movement. “You mean we’ve done this before?!” I asked, astonished as I
emerged. I’d known that women had won the right to vote, but I’d formed no idea of
the intensity of the struggle. Another thing that dismayed me was the
breaking up of the initial small group, and all the intensity and intimacy
of the interaction. By the time I had returned to NYC from California that
fall, the group had volumetrically increased in size and was meeting in an office on East 11th street.
I dropped out from that group shortly thereafter.
One thing that felt exhilarating for me in joining NEFAC and coming back
into anarchism is that so many of the things that defeated us back in the
60’s have been conquered and worked through. The one thing that amazes me
and I tried to explain to Carol Hanisch (NY Radical Women) is that
there is this insistence on process, where everything possible is done to
make sure that everyone is heard, speaks, and is allowed fair expression.
The Baltimore conference for example: people insisted on process for like 8
or 9 hours! And I was just blown away by that. Also with the
anti-globalization movement and the spontaneity of the street protests,
people are drawn to many concepts that may have started back in the 60’s,
but didn’t have any currency until now; like affinity groups. So I think
people are ready to put to bed a lot of the old timey traditional approaches
to organizing today.
New left vs. Old Left and NEFAC tradition of Anarchist-Communism. I don’t
like the term myself that much. What are your thoughts?
First of all, New Left is very much a term of the 60’s. The groundbreaking accomplished by a group
like SDS was in [re]establishing the legitimacy of Left thought after years of anti-communism,
Cold War and McCarthyism. There is actually a break from the Marxian tradition in anarchist thinking. And there is an
insistence in at least part of the anarchist community that there doesn’t
need to be a thread between the two, that we can arrive at an analysis that
doesn’t have to be a part of a continuum. I don’t know if NEFAC would be
very happy in me saying this. Nobody needs to sit down and read a full tome of Lenin
before they have an opinion, before they hunger for liberation. You know,
South African miners don’t need to read the NY Times to know that they
are oppressed.
What lessons should we learn for today?
I think the anarchist movement should stay close to the principles of
women’s liberation in keeping the focus on political struggle from the
inside out. I am little taken aback that NEFAC is so male dominated. It is sad
that in all this time women haven’t become stronger than they are, myself
One of the first things that attracted me to anarchism was that instead of
concerning itself with the other–with ‘the masses’, that there was an analysis of how
the brutality of state and social repression affected everyone, with the corresponding exploration
of liberatory modalities–structures and celebrations; an emphasis on the
personal need for liberation and its social and political implications.
I also think that we are now seeing the beginning of the end, especially
with Bush’s endless war. I think that capitalism is at a cul-de-sac and it
won’t be able to come out of it alive. For that reason, we have to be on our
toes because the US government will be morally and financially bankrupt in
ten years if it goes on with this war. But we are exactly were we should be.
I like NEFAC’s concept of struggle. Also we don’t need to have our ideas
written in stone, we are evolving, we are developing our class analysis. I
am excited about it, but it also frightens me. I am still shell-shocking
about having made this commitment to NEFAC. I have to sit tight with this,
and wait for the growth process to feel the reward of this commitment at the
same time that I let go of some of the concepts that I used to understand
life for the last 20 years.
What made you come back to Anarchism/NEFAC?
In the spring of ’99, while I still subscribed to it, I read an article in
*The Nation* entitled ‘Post-Feminist Memoirs.’ That was the moment I decided
to overcome more than 30 years of passivity and reactivate myself as an early
women’s liberationist. I was aware that I had made a
decision to open a door, and was determined to have the courage
to deal with and explore everything that came through it. My reinvolvement
with anarchism started with the purchase of “Anarchy” magazine, and an
article on one of the WTO demonstrations, at the end of which NEFAC’s
website was mentioned. I sent off an e-mail and heard back from Flint
Jones. From there it was an escalating involvement. I had decided to
reaffirm and explore my anarchist roots in an effort to intensify my
struggle for a world free of war and exploitation.
Interview by
Jorge – Barricada Collective
4. Useful Links
Sophia Smith Collection:
North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists
Another interview with Eve:
Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!
“An old-timey anarchist shares her thoughts and experiences of the East Village in the late 60’s.”
by Jorge Morales
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