The University of California at Berkeley, which has been ranked as one of the foremost educational establishments in the world has recently been the scene of a prolonged and massive confrontation between the students and administration with a great majority of the faculty siding with the students. Many of the problems which were dormant in contemporary American society have been raised by the powerful student movement into major issues. These problems are in important ways similar to those which have traditionally presented themselves to a polity—the rôle of the citizen in political life, popular control over decision making, civil liberties, the rights of free association, the rôle of political elites, and the relationship of ‘legal’ means to civil disobedience. But the context in which these questions are posed is radically different: a highly bureaucratic society composed of large scale organizations where power and decision making are concentrated at the top; a highly integrated society where education—industry—military—government frequently exchange services and personnel; a political society where large scale popular political participation is looked down upon precisely by the political men who, possessed by the administrative vision, define situations either in professional or technical terms. The end product of all this raises a decisive question: can politics as it has been understood (as conflict and popular participation) by many democratic political theorists, survive the onslaught of the newly emerging society and its spokesmen? The Free Speech Movement (fsm), the student defenders of civil liberties at the University, answer in the affirmative and to a large degree have succeeded in establishing some semblance of those rights at the University of California at Berkeley. The University bureaucracy and some highly respectable scholars have answered in the negative either to demands of the students or to their organized efforts to achieve these rights.

For too many years the University of California was the typical United States university in the way of restriction of political activity: all political groups (conservative, liberal, and radical) were prohibited from meeting to carry on routine business, raising funds, asking for new members, or from even presenting ‘political’ talks (speeches had to have an ‘educational’ function according to the Administrative interpretation of this term). It was a quite painless and benevolent authoritarianism except for the small number of students who had any concern about social problems. For the rest, sports, games, sex (the marriage market), entertainment, and a general bureaucratic career orientation filled up a vacuous college life. Professors were willing to refrain from any serious public reappraisal of the major institutions in exchange for a research grant and a high sense of professionalization. Both activities filled their time and gave them peace and order. The University was no centre of critical and novel ideas; it was merely the intellectual extension of a business oriented community. The University cared about ‘politics’ only in so far as it affected its narrow interests (maintenance and expansion of staff and buildings). Out of the backwash of McCarthyism and the loyalty oath period there slowly began to emerge pockets of students who began to concern themselves with the major issues of American society: the negroes’ struggle for full equality; the problem of domestic poverty and unemployment; United States foreign policy and involvement in the Cold War; the status of migrant farm labour; but most fundamental of all, the issue which directly confronted these forerunners of the student movement, was their very right to express, assemble and organize to achieve these social goals. The extent of the deterioration of civil liberties in the United States did not become evident until there was an attempt to exercise them on behalf of oppressed groups and against established power blocs. The recent years have seen a massive buildup of Negro support for their own democratic liberties: an integral part of their struggle for social and economic reform has been their demand for civil liberties. The very lack of those civil liberties has been the basic factor behind the reliance on civil disobedience tactics. Likewise, the fsm in Berkeley, which at its peak had the support of over 20,000 students (of 27,000 in attendance), had to organize around radical tactics to achieve the democratic rights that up to that time had not existed on the campus.

Paradoxically and much to the surprise of many liberals and democrats a recent series of articles has appeared written by eminent Berkeley academicians highly respected for their professional success which call into question the student movement’s seeking to institute democratic reform. These ‘New Conservatives’ view with Burke-like horror the large number of students active in politics in a way not conducive to the bureaucratic management of the University. Large scale political participation by citizens concerned with building a political platform is considered by political sociologist, Lipset as a threat to the proper functioning of a university. Speaking like a nostalgic monarchist exile after a democratic revolution, Lipset writes in the Reporter magazine: ‘To restore the Berkeley Campus to anything resembling a normal first-rate American university will be immensely difficult.’ The imposition of the bureaucratic, anti-political and super-professional ethos which permeates most ‘normal first-rate American universities’ might well be impossible. And the students and society will be much the better for it. The ‘New Conservatives’ ideology is a curious blend of pseudo-liberal rhetoric with Burkean overtones. Lipset writes about the student attempt to establish constitutional legal rights on the campus against administrative restriction as if it were a danger: ‘The indifference to legality shown by serious and dedicated students threatens the foundations of democratic order.’ That ‘legality’ to which Lipset refers is precisely the set of bureaucratic regulations established by the University Administration to hamstring the exercise of the rights which characterize (according to traditional democratic theorists) the foundations of a democratic order. The values expressed by Lipset and which he acts upon, are not those found in a democratic order but those found in a bureaucratic order: bureaucratic regulations are the foundations of his society—which he chooses to call ‘democratic’. One of the important side results of the Berkeley conflict was that in the consequent reaction by administrative liberals the spotlight was thrown on the extent to which there has been a profound alteration in the operational meaning of the word ‘democracy’ among so-called liberal social scientists. In their espousal of the liberal liturgy it is in everyday life frequently difficult to find the ‘real value basis’ on which political activity is carried on. Here in Berkeley where issues such as free speech become paramount the conflict between the fsm and the University Administration provided a clear case for determining which values inform action. In this case the ‘New Conservatives’ Lipset (Reporter Jan. 28th, 1965), Feuer (New Leader, Dec. 21st, 1964, Jan. 4th, Jan. 18th, 1965), Nathan Glazer (Commentary, February 1965) showed considerable animus to the efforts by the student movement.

Professor Feuer goes to considerable effort to represent the students as the users of ‘force’, i.e. civil disobedience. The Chancellor of the University who was involved in the arresting of over 800 students, who were brutally dragged down flights of stairs resulting in scores of head and bodily injuries, was represented by Feuer as ‘a man of saintly character and an eminent scholar’. The projecting of violence on the victims and the admiration of power and authority in the Establishment are in fact the hallmarks of authoritarian politics. Lipset lamenting the popularity of the student activity for civil liberties notes that ‘the authority (i.e. control over student political activities) both of the administration and faculty (sic. a hard core of 10 per cent of the faculty like Lipset, Feuer, et al.) had become virtually non-existent at Berkeley by December’. Later on in the article Lipset pinning his hopes for the restoration of the bureaucratic authority on a new acting chancellor, writes in the language of modern authoritarianism: ‘Myerson already has shown strength and sophistication in dealing with the crisis and he commands wide support . . .’ In a more explicit vein Lipset reiterates that normality will require ‘administrative leadership and intelligence’.

While widespread student political participation appears as abnormal, while the use of civil disobedience to obtain basic rights is condemned for violating bureaucratic regulation, while the brutality of the police and the expulsion of students are glossed over or appended as ‘mistakes’ the ‘New Conservatives’ find ‘democracy’ in the light of saintly but worldly powerful bureaucrats. This is their view from our right.