Based on the media coverage so far, the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions are looking to be among the most divisive and controversial in over fifty years. In this guest post, Craig J. Peariso—author of Radical Theatrics: Put-Ons, Politics, and the Sixties—revisits the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and how it might inform this month’s events.
At the turn of 1968, Abbie and Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Nancy Kurshan, Paul Krassner, and Ed Sanders began making plans to hold a music festival as something of a counterpoint to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that summer. It would be a “Festival of Life,” as they called it, in opposition to the Democratic “Party of Death.” The friends envisioned rock bands playing as America’s youth demonstrated not just their opposition to the war, but the version of liberation that the counterculture offered. To bring young people to Chicago, they would call their sponsoring organization the Youth International Party, a name that stressed their core constituency, of course, but also served as a bit of a pun. For those accustomed to traditional Party politics, the name would sound somewhat official, but for those who weren’t interested in politics-as-usual, the word “Party” could be read differently. Much as the mainstream political Parties tended to involve drudgery and compromise, the Festival of Life and the Youth International Party would be about celebration, a fact the group emphasized in the preferred way of pronouncing their acronym: Y.I.P. became “Yippie!”