Mario Salvio’s ‘Bodies Against the Machine’ Speech

Seems like a good time to repost this gem:

Savio found himself at the center of the Free Speech Movement, which had begun protesting the university’s ban on political activity on campus that fall. It is remarkable in this day to consider that a university could institute such a ban (especially in light of the ongoing protests at UC-Berkeley this weekend against tuition hikes, or, more locally, the walkout planned at WSU today). In a way, the widespread political activity on college campuses shows just how successful the Free Speech Movement was in fighting such bans.

But back to the speech: It represents a sort of turning point for what used to be called the counterculture (the very culture that would go on to give birth to such alternative newsweeklies as Metro Times, for instance). It’s a short but bold and defiant oration that says free human beings aren’t going to be pushed around by anybody, from lawmakers and police to liberals and labor leaders. Standing in front of a crowd of 4,000 people, Savio described his meeting with university officials, who compared the president of the university to the president of a corporation. In a clever way, Savio followed this line of comparison to its logical conclusion: Universities were factories turning the “raw materials” — that is to say, the students — into finished products to be bought by corporations, government, or organized labor. It’s a fine little speech, made especially memorable by Savio’s passion, the way he seems to be pulling together his speech on the fly, and especially by the closing paragraph, from with the address takes its name as the “bodies upon the gears” speech.