Larry Sloman interviewed over 200 people for Steal This Dream, an oral history of Abbie Hoffman. As one who lived through that era and more or less was a Yippie, reading this decades later was illuminating. Mistakes, yeah, we made a few. Drugs nearly destroyed Hoffman and made him into a fugitive. (They almost did me in too.) However, in addition to the recklessness, Hoffman was also a brilliant tactician, deliberately outrageous, and committed to social change.
It’s a fair book. Sloman shows all sides of Hoffman, there’s no attempt at hero worship here. I won’t try to detail it all, except for two stories.
Perhaps the most famous thing Hoffman did was with Jerry Rubin when they tossed money off the NY Stock Exchange balcony, nearly caused a riot among traders grasping for money, and made worldwide headlines. The guards almost didn’t let them it until Hoffman said, while TV cameras were running, you aren’t letting us in because we’re Jewish, aren’t you? This so flustered the guards that they let Hoffman and Rubin in.
Right after the Kent State shootings Jerry Rubin said look they’re killing people, most of us can’t stand up to that and don’t want to either, me included. One person interviewed said Hoffman would have never said that, implying that Rubin was a sell-out, and maybe he was. But, I think, he was also correct. The vast majority of Left politicos have no desire to go underground and live violently. When the change finally does come, it’ll be through a mass aboveground movement, because, really, how else can it happen?
The beauty of having dropped out, is in the ability to do so again.