He sits at a table in Seattle's Red Robin restaurant almost humbly, nursing a Rainier beer. The slightly graying hair is neatly combed, well trimmed and barely touching the ears. The suit is a conservative gray tweed, the tie quiet and reassuring. So are his soft-spoken musings, hard to hear over the taped jazz and folk music. "America is in good shape," he offers soothingly. "America is not ideologically racist. Americans are willing to give people a fair shake." He could be a small businessman decompressing amiably between a week's rash of orders and the idyl of a suburban weekend.
But he is not. He is Charles C. Marshall III, 35"Chip" to his friendsformer member of the national committee of Students for a Democratic Society, leading figure of the Seattle Liberation Front (a sort of 1970-ish club of leftist clubs), and a key defendant in the 1970 "Seattle Eight" conspiracy trial. Today three of Marshall's top S.D.S. colleagues of the tumultuous 1960s are still under ground. One of them, Weather Under ground Leader Bernardino Dohrn, has become something of a cult role model for the dwindled, sullen ranks of the New Left. Nor have Marshall's Seattle Eight co-defendants lapsed into torpor suburbanus. One was jailed only two years ago for conspiracy, another died after years of ruinous drug taking and late nights, and the others tend to espouse leftist causes that range in tone from Jane Fonda chic to Hanoi histrionics.
What happened to Marshall? "I could not quite accept the idea of mankind being all alone," he says, referring to the philosophical premises of his revolutionary years. "In the '60s we all flirted around with Marxism. But clearly there are powers beyond those solely generated by human societies. I learned a lot of things in jail too." In 1971 Marshall spent two months in Terminal Island Prison in Los Angeles and six more at Clearwater Prison camp in Washington State on a contempt of court conviction. "At Terminal Island I wouldn't shave, so they put me on death row. Prison shook a lot of my preconceptions. I met some characters in prison who were just plain bad."
Jail shook his ideological certitudes. "I knew I had to change," he says. "I might have gotten crazy. People in S.D.S. thought I was always too mass-oriented. I could never go the whole step of accepting Marx like the Bible."
Exactly a decade ago this spring, none of this was very obvious. Marshall's denunciations of the University of Washington's athletic links with Brigham Young University, a Mormon school that was accused of racism, helped provoke a nasty riot. Seattle Liberation Front and Black Student Union supporters surged off on a rampage through eleven campus buildings. They did little damage, but they roughed up some innocent bystanders and frightened others. Many carried pipes, chains and clubs. "Revolution" was Marshall's own word for this ominous wave of the future, but other rhetorical staples of the day went along with it: "Power to the people!" and "Smash the state!" The vague goal was communism"with a small c," Marshall now insists.