The Yippies! In Chicago, 1968


One of the Yippies! founders, Abbie Hoffman, describes the goals of the Yippies! and the plans for demonstrations in Chicago, where the Democratic National Convention was to take place in August.  Taken from Revolution for the Hell of It by Abbie Hoffman. The Dial Press, Inc., 1968.


Last December [1967] a group of us in New York conceived the Yippie! idea.  We had four main objectives:


  1. The blending of pot and politics into a political grass leaves movement – a cross fertilization of the hippie and New Left philosophies.
  2. A connecting link that would tie together as much of the underground as was willing into some gigantic national get-together.
  3. The development of a model for an alternative society.
  4. The need to make some statement, especially in revolutionary action-theater terms, about LBJ, the Democratic Party, electoral politics, and the state of the nation.


To accomplish these tasks required the construction of a vast myth, for through the notion of myth large numbers of people could get turned on and, in that process of getting turned on, begin to participate in Yippie! and start to focus on Chicago.  Precision was sacrificed for a greater degree of suggestion. [emphasis in the original] People took off in all directions in the most sensational manner possible:


“We will burn Chicago to the ground!”

“We will fuck on the beaches!”

“We demand the Politics of Ecstasy!”

“Acid for all!”

“Abandon the Creeping Meatball!”

And all the time: “Yippie! Chicago – August 25-30.”


Reporters would play their preconceived roles: “What is the difference between a hippie and a Yippie?” A hundred different answers would fly out, forcing the reporter to make up his own answers; to distort.  And distortion became the life-blood of the Yippies.  Yippie! was in the eye of the beholder . . . .


A Constitutional Convention is being planned.  A convention of visionary mind-benders who will for five long days and nights address themselves to the task of formulating the goals and means of the New Society.

It will be a blend of technologists and poets, of artists and community organizers, of anyone who has a vision.  We will try to develop a Community of Consciousness.

There will be a huge rock-folk festival for free.  Contrary to rumor, no groups originally committed to Chicago have dropped out.  In fact, additional ones have agreed to participate.  In all about thirty groups and performers will be there.

Theater groups from all over the country are pledged to come.  They are an integral part of the activities, and a large amount of funds raised from here on in will go for the transportation of street theater groups.

Workshops in a variety of subjects such as draft resistance, drugs, commune development, guerrilla theater and underground media will be set up.  The workshops will be oriented around problem-solving while the Constitutional Convention works to develop the overall philosophical framework.

There will probably be a huge march across town to haunt the Democrats.

People coming to Chicago should begin preparations for five days of energy-exchange.  Do not come prepared to sit and watch and be fed and cared for.  It just won’t happen that way.  It is time to become a life-actor.  The days of the audience died with the old America.  If you don’t have a thing to do, stay home, you’ll only get in the way . . . .

We are negotiating, with the Chicago city government, a six-day treaty . . . . We have had several meetings, principally with David Stahl, Deputy Mayor of Chicago, and there remains but to iron out the terms of the treat – suspension of curfew laws, regulations pertaining to sleeping on the beach, etc. – for us to have a bona fide permit in our hands.

The possibility of violence will be greatly reduced.  There is no guarantee that it will be entirely eliminated.

This is the United States, 1968, remember. If you are afraid of violence you shouldn’t have crossed the border. [emphasis in original]

This matter of a permit is a cat-and-mouse game. The Chicago authorities do not wish to grant it too early, knowing this would increase the number of people that descend on the city.  They can ill afford too late, for that will inhibit planning on our part and create more chaos.

It is not our wish to take on superior armed troops who outnumber us on unfamiliar enemy territory. It is not their wish to have a Democrat nominated amidst a major bloodbath.  The treaty will work for both sides . . . .

Prepare a street theater skit or bring something to distribute, such as food, poems or music.  Get sleeping bags and other camping equipment . . . .

The point is, you can use Chicago as a means of pulling your local community together.  It can serve to open up a dialogue between political radicals and those who might be considered hippies.  The radical will say to the hippie: “Get together and fight, you are getting the shit kicked out of you.” The hippie will say to the radical: “Your protest is so narrow, your rhetoric so boring, your ideological power plays so old-fashioned.”

Each can help the other, and Chicago . . . might well offer the medium to put forth that message.



To read a short poem by Yippies! founder Jerry Rubin, click here.