Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I've greatly enjoyed the discussions on the 1960s left and our movement.  It's a complicated story with lots of swirls and eddies, and since we're all in the thick of what we're doing, it's hard to have any sense of distance.  It's not clear that the internet left matters, but I believe that it's important to know who we are and where we come from as we concurrently develop a vision for the country we want to live in.  As a nascent movement, we could flame out or not rise to the level of modern challenges, but hey, that's life.  Sometimes stuff, even really cool stuff, doesn't work.  

First I'd like to state a couple of assumptions.  This is not a '1960s kidz' versus '2000 kidz' pissing contest.  While there are inherently generational gaps in how I'm describing what's going on, I am not representing the internet left as a youth movement confined to one generation.  The white part of the 1960s left movement was youth-based, but this one includes lots of people of all ages, including many who got their start in the 1960s.  I am  young for a blogger, at 28 - there are plenty of people working in this movement who are much older.  In fact some commenters who bristle at how I characterize their memories are themselves part of the new progressive movement. I'm not just making this up to encompass as many people as possible.  If you take the internet left as a coherent group, just look at some of the major concentrations - Moveon members are not young, and Dailykos readers are not young either.  I was at Yearly Kos, and I was a whipper snapper.  Certainly that's not representative, but still I don't see major college organizing centers today as catalytic to what we're doing, unlike in the 1960s when the Students for a Democratic Society or Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee played major leadership roles.  Maybe that's because we have the internet and the 1960s generation had pop culture, though I would trace it differently.  

Second, in terms of capturing the political system, the New Left, the liberals, and radical organizers of the 1960s failed, and the New Right of that period won.  Culturally it's a very different story (they lost, we won), but institutionally speaking right-wingers have as much or more power than they did in the 1960s, though it's manifested less through cross-burning and more through extreme ghettoization, inequality, a fear-based health care system, and radically higher economic risk for the middle class.  We can't pretend that this isn't the case just because it makes the right feel good.  The 1960s left lost, and politically speaking in terms of strategy they should NOT be emulated.  

This is not a universally held assumption.  This comment from Frenchman and this one from Paul Rosenberg bristle at this idea; these two insightful and brilliant commenters are defending the purity of the 'Dirty Fucking Hippy', and point out that this archetype has been mischaracterized for all these years.  Rosenberg argues that bloggers need to dream big and stop following the ins and outs of the 2008 race - in this they should imitate the DFHs.  I don't really understand why 2008 shouldn't be a vehicle for debate over vision and big dreams, but I do have a question for those who want to defend the 1960s left and the strategies that generation pursued.  Just where have all the DFH's gone?  I'll tell you where they haven't gone - into the electoral system.  Do you know who the 1960s left created in terms of successful political leadership? Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and John Kerry.  And those are the best of the bunch - sitting under them is an entire superstructure of less talented or less fortunate political figures who aspire to their place.  Those are transactional leaders, a far cry from the transcendental revolutionary ardor of the time focusing on social justice.  The 1960s left-wing didn't just cool of ardor, it disappeared and allowed its legacy to be captured by triangulating reflexively anti-liberal political creatures who trip up their immense talent with caution and big money politics.  And it's ironic, because it's not necessary to do this anymore within the liberal culture that the 1960s New Left helped create.  

The failures of the 1960s left are legion - from splinter groups supporting North Vietnam and third world tyrannical revolutionary movements and castigating America as an evil force to not working within the electoral process to venerating flashy conflict over organizing to valuing cultural conflict over persuasion.  And yes, the right-wing likes to use these memes to discredit left-wingers as unAmerican, but that doesn't mean that these stereotypes had no basis in reality.  They did, and they were excesses of a minority of the New Left that felt betrayed after years of organizing work.  But they did exist, and the later abandonment of politics hardened these youthful passionate excesses into serious branding and institutional obstacles to liberalism .  Even if the unAmerican 1960s left was all PR, the problem is still one of abandonment - PR needed to be rebutted, and it wasn't.  There was no Atrios in 1971, just technocratic liberalism.  Our right flank was totally exposed.  

I'm not trying to frame this as the right does, that New Left radicals were funded by Communists and hate America.  They weren't.  There was some excess.  Lots of people did and do stupid things.  The war in Vietnam was much much worse than smoking dope and throwing a pie in someone's face on TV.  And Bohemianism and attacks on radical leftism and liberalism go back to World War I, and prior to that.  But so does economic populism and anti-corporatism, yet the PR battle of 1970-2000 was left to those who characterized the left as a bunch of pot-smoking lazy dilettantes and the right as manly soldier fathers.  I don't care that DFHs existed, and I don't doubt that a bunch of them thoughtfully made critiques of contemporary politics (though many were apolitical young people that just wanted sex and fun).  What frustrates is the abandonment, the capitulation to the reaction.  It was as if Nixon won, and so everyone went home.

The consequences of the abandonment were severe.  Where is the defense or institutional memory of the War on Poverty?  John Edwards is running with poverty as a major theme, but I don't hear any defense of LBJs masterstroke, or that of government as an organizing force.  Indeed the left-wing intellectuals that should have emerged and forcefully argued for liberal politics against a right-wing onslaught just seem to have disappeared.  Now of course I'm not going to paper over the civil rights struggle or feminism, but where was the 1960s left when the crack epidemic was destroying urban America?  Why is Joe Lieberman still allowed to tread on his few weeks in Mississippi in the 1960s?    

The failure of the 1960s left goes back to two structural weaknesses - one is the assumption that liberals, radicals, and Democrats all made, that America was post-scarcity.  The failure to understand that economic security allowed a political left led directly to the right-wing manipulation of economic risk to our current situation.  The students of the New Left and the liberals of the time just assumed material progress, which left us unprepared for oil shocks.  But instead of coming up with new ideas, the New Left turned inward and the liberals were scared away from political combat.  You can see this today in how the new and progressive movement is basically without institutional help, mentorship, or funding.  Retreat to academia and the personal sphere happened because the 1960s left ignored economics and failed to defend the public as a meaningful concept.  So when a pugnaciously liberal populist force emerges, we ally with people like Jim Webb and not groups like NARAL or checklist liberals like Chuck Schumer.

The second biggest structural flaw was failing to coopt the liberal establishment, the big institutions.  With the exception of unions (which have turned sharply more liberal), potentially liberal institutions - big foundations, media, government, progressive corporate entities - are all either conservative or cautiously technocratic.  The lack of discussion over the War on Poverty, which is accepted as a failure even though it was not, contrasts deeply with the incessant carping about Vietnam.  When Nixon took the air out of that tire, the New Left had nothing.  The right-wing in the 1960s through the 1990s focused on institutional takeover, which is why many of us see them as people to be emulated and why we see the 1960s left as a group of good-hearted people that just didn't step up to their own ambitions.

Todd Gitlin, who many of you suggested I read, and his passage on page 436 of 'The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage', discusses this phenomenon.

The odds have been against the Left in laissez-faire-loving, race-divided, history-burying America from the start.  The two-party system, solidified by law, militates against the ideological margins - even as the parties lose their hold on the voters.  The New Left, like its predecessors, failed to create lasting political forms; when the SDS was torn apart, so was the chance for continuity.  In the Seventies, affinity group models of participatory democracy helped discredit Leninist politics, but often at the price of discrediting leadership and lucid debate altogether.  Whipsawed between anarchism and Leninism, the New Left failed to produce the political leaders one might have expected of a movement so vast; it devalued too much intelligence, was too ambivalent abut personal prowess.  The millennial, all-or-nothing moods of the Sixties proved to be poor training for practical politics.  The premium the movement placed on the glories and agonies of the pure existential will ill equipped many of us to slog away in coalitions in a society crisscrossed by divisions, a society not cleanly polarized along a single moral axis, a society not poised on the edge of radical change.  Therefore, for both long-standing and recent reasons, a substantial Left has been conspicuous by its absence since the McGovern debacle.  When Nixon and then Reagan went too far in tier efforts to damage or circumvent legitimate opposition, and suffered the crippling of their war-making powers, there no was Left to say: These are the consequences of imperial passion run amok.  With its moderating genius, the political system worked to contain the scandals as matters of lawbreaking, bad judgment, bad character, shoddy administration.

Gitlin is wrong in certain respects, but the book was published in 1987 and at that time few could foresee the rise of the extreme right.  What I sort of hope we can do is acknowledge that the left of the 1960s failed in some very serious ways, and move forward from there in not repeating those mistakes.  If you want to talk vision, the 1960s left could 'feel' politics with the best of them, but if you want to talk solid institutional structures, it's the New Right or the radical organizers of the 1930s who are the right model.  They created a movement that allowed people to be liberal or conservative even after they started families, to build their participation in the public sphere into their economics and their lives.  Now of course as a child of the 1980s, I was apolitical until 2002, so it's not like I'm blameless.  None of us are.  And the point isn't to cast blame, since hey, we can all be part of this newfangled cool internet progressive thingy and all of us are going to have to pitch in if we are going to dodge very angry Arctic ice.  And there's a persuasive argument that the internet was built by progressive radicals from the 1960s who went to Silicon Valley, that the culture of the time made strides that I am overlooking.  Still, that Arctic ice is very angry.

Anyway, I just want us to know our history.  Thoughts?  Comments?

Tags: 1960s, netroots, New Left, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

193 Comments

Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Second, in terms of capturing the political system, the New Left, the liberals, and radical organizers of the 1960s failed."

Nope...they won...Civil Rights, Voting Rights, School Desegregation, Miranda Rights, Warren Court decisions, Environmental movement and creation of the EPA...all the way to the impeachment of Nixon (a correct use of impeachment).

All that set the country on the right path all the way to the 1980's.

No movement lasts forever and we have been in the darkness of the right wing Republicans since 1980 but you have to say the 1960's and 70's were a success as far as the liberal agenda.

Just ask the right wing Republicans who ran against it and who still rail against the bulwark of liberalism built during those decades.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-31 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Nixon was not impeached.  He resigned, was pardoned, and that was considered a highly moral act that the left accepted as legitimate instead of the truly monstrous mistake it turned out to be.

by Matt Stoller 2006-12-31 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Nixon was not impeached.  He resigned."

Puleeze...Nixon resigned because he was going to be impeached.

"He resigned, was pardoned, and that was considered a highly moral act that the left accepted as legitimate instead of the truly monstrous mistake it turned out to be."

No that is totally wrong as the retrospect on Gerry Ford notes...Ford's reasons for pardoning Nixon was not to justify Nixon's crimes but to move the nation  past it.

Question was did the 60's liberals win and they did...winning arguably the biggest battles in US politics since US Civil War.

The right wing did not take over until 1980 so 60's liberals had a 20 year track record of major liberal victories from Civil Rights to Environment.

Right wing Republicans today and still trying to get past many of the protections put in place in that era.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-31 09:35AM | 0 recs
Agree. n/t

by Coral 2007-01-01 05:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"a highly moral act that the left accepted as legitimate"

It cost Ford re-election, so I don't think you can say it was "accepted." As the right has steadily increased its power over political information and narrative, the pardon gradually became "accepted."

by miasmo 2006-12-31 09:48AM | 0 recs
I don't think it did.

   I believe Ford's infamous Poland comment sunk the ship.

by cilerder86 2006-12-31 10:28AM | 0 recs
Wait a minute.

Aren't you one of the people arguing against impeaching Bush?  "Don't impeach Bush for torture and war crimes", but impeach Nixon for B&E?

We did win.  We just didn't drive a stake through their hearts.  We didn't know we were dealng with The Terminator (in more ways than one).  Do I want you to repeat the 60s? (Please never the cruel joke called the 70s.)  Hell no, I want you to learn from it and do better.  We just yelled and screamed and made the biggest nuisance we could.  The netroots have political savvy and money.  I want you to kick their asses and to finish them off - for good - this time.  Get it?

by dkmich 2006-12-31 02:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Wait a minute.

No, I favor impeachment.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-01 01:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

and that was considered a highly moral act that the left accepted as legitimate instead of the truly monstrous mistake it turned out to be.

Matt, 'the left' (whoever that is) never accepted the pardon of Nixon as legitimate. I do not know anyone who I would consider left who does. Indeed the ordinary citizens I know who lived through that time and whose politics have always been 'left' (and who, incidently, despise the 'centrist' Democrats for the precise same reasons they despised conservative Southern Democrats and spineless self serving assholes like Chuck Schumer, who is not a liberal)

by colleen 2007-01-01 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Uh...no. Actually most of the heavy lifing on that was done in the late 50's, early 60's at the latest. Brown vs Board, the March on Washington, etc...

You want heros on these issues, take a look at the long ignored Silent Generation. The Boomers were still in short pants watching Captain Space Zoomer or whatever.

by ElitistJohn 2006-12-31 03:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

The heaviest lifting on school desegregation was the busing battle of the 70's. That was national, whereas Brown vs. Board affected only the South, by and large. It's also a more ambiguous issue, and one that is still controversial and  therefore still relevant.

by bento 2006-12-31 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Actually, no, the heavy lifting was done in the 1960's.  The 1970's were largely reactionary and/or overreaching.  The Vietnam War ended badly for the Left with the sour taste of radicalism in the mouth of Americans who had grown to oppose the war for mainstream reasons.  The ERA lost.  And busing, actually helped to hasten "white flight".  Much the same problems as the neo-cons today.  A small and powerful self-obsessed minority tries to push abstract (and largely faulty) ideology on to an unprepared public, ends up overrreaching, and turning everyone off, including their own allies.  Sound familiar?  This is far different than the successful and largely coalitional and practical social justice victories of the 1960's channeled through a message and action around equality and opportunity, not "I'm gonna force you to adopt my ideology".  True progressivism (and effective progressivism) concentrates on EVOKING people's conscience, not forcing ideology down others' throats.  That is where the leadership is lacking right now on the left: critical, moldy-Marxist reactionaries and triangulating opportunists, but now some promise of a unbowed, practical, and inspired diverse grass-roots that has faith that if you offer a better alternative and let people taste it, you can create change.  

by citizenzeus 2006-12-31 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I suppose this depends on how you define "heavy" lifting. I would characterise it not by the desirability of  the outcome - which is not what "heavy" suggests - but by the fierceness of the opposition. By that criterion, busing definitely qualifies, like it or not, and I'm not sure I do (I grew up in black majority and plurality schools, but not as a consequence of busing).

In broader terms, though, the environmental movement is basically a product of the early seventies. Since global warming and sustainability are questions of survival, I think their importance rather trumps anything else the sixties were up to.

by bento 2006-12-31 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"In broader terms, though, the environmental movement is basically a product of the early seventies."

EPA was established in 1970 after a decade (the 60's) of environmental activism.

The EPA and the environmental regulatory changes were certainly one of the great successes of the "60's left"...though Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the key, the 2nd US Civil War and the Union won again.

Time wise, the time of the "60's left" runs from 1960-80.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 07:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

The heavy lift was passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the subsequent integration and voting rights battles that followed.

The 60's liberals sacrificed power, giving up the segregationist South to the Republicans in order to make the biggest leap forward for the US since the Civil War.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-31 09:07PM | 0 recs
Heavy lifting on civil rights

You have to trace the development of the Civil Rights & Voting Rights acts back to the dogged, persistent, and devoted work of many black activists (working with white progressives), basically from the end of the Civil War. The NAACP legal teams, and activists who gave their lives in the segregationist South.

Still I don't think those acts would have passed Congress without the death of JFK and Johnson's determination to enact them.

So many people contributed that it is impossible to point to just one or two people.

by Coral 2007-01-01 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

When the oldest boomer was 19.

Yeah, I'm sure that wave of college freshmen and teenagers was critical to the cause in 64.

by ElitistJohn 2007-01-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"When the oldest boomer was 19."

Post WWII baby boom began in 1945. So in 1963 they began college so the 1960's were mostly baby boomers in the nation's colleges.

You seem a bit confused on the timing..."60's liberals" certainly included the college students.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-28 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Ookay...little basic math here.

Soldiers returned from WWII in 1945 ("baby boom, remember?). It takes 9 months to knock out a kid. So at best we're talking late 1945. Now, what is 1945 subtracted from 1964?

19. Freshmen. Sophomores at best

That would be the very bleeding edge of the boom. Most came later.

Your point was the 1964 act. Now unless that appeared sui generis day before voting, one could assume some lead time.

So, unless you actually believe the act wouldn't have happened without those brave froshes, an idea patently ludicrous on its face, then the boomers had nothing to do with it.

by ElitistJohn 2007-01-28 12:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Your point was the 1964 act."

"60's left" was the original author's point and their accomplishments in the 60's and 70's were huge with the 1963 Civil Rights Act being the jewel in the crown.

I noted that the 60's left included the boomers as college kids...that is who filled the colleges in the 60's and 70's

by BrionLutz 2007-01-28 12:57PM | 0 recs
1960s Left

Happy New Year in spite of it all.

by global yokel 2006-12-31 09:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

As a 1960's DFH, now grandmother and still an activist, I must agree with one of your points, that we did not answer the neocom meme, our PR sucked.  I think we thought we'd won (per Brian Lutz, above), and their meme was basically sour grapes.  Then many of us went off and did what we'd put off in order to end Vietnam - like having babies, finsihing school, getting real jobs, paying taxes and growing veggies in suburbia.

I do want to re-read your diary when I am less rushed, and have time to think about some of your other points, but I tend to think there were some excesses.  Particularly in the People's Republic of Berkeley.

by dksbook 2006-12-31 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I think the problem is between the ideals of the left, whether those were a failure, and the leadership of the left, whether they were a failure. I don't think a leader needs to name people by name to create change. I do think that, for example the discussion of crack in urban America (or cocaine in the suburbs), isn't a discussion of the failures of the old left versus new left. It's a failure of leadership and a failure of followers to get beyond orthodoxy, burnout, corruption and multiple other things that have nothing to do with the ideals themself.  

by bruh21 2006-12-31 09:38AM | 0 recs
This is an unresolved Problem in the left

Between a desire for a proactive government approach to social problems and the maximalization of personal freedom. The Peace and Freedom and Libertarian parties came from the same root and went different directions. This is, indeed, one of the lasting problems of the sixties, never having worked out this conflict, particularly as regards drugs. Lots of people who were irresponsible with drugs in youth become anti-drug later, particularly if they have kids, so this is an area where the tendencies of a generation can tend to change over time. However, I don't think the later generations have worked out this conflict either, and  it is one of the classic basic  political problems.

by bento 2006-12-31 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

You say, Matt, "Do you know who the 1960s left created in terms of successful political leadership? Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and John Kerry."

Aren't you leaving out Howard Dean? A young Wall Street guy who wanted to do something meaningful and became a GP and then inspired even me to write letters to the editor and electioneer?

by joyful alternative 2006-12-31 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Why are the sixties measured by Bill Clinton, but the Greatest Generation not by Nixon and Reagan? Reagan, in his image, embodied the idealized self of that generation. For that matter, why is the greatest generation measured mostly by the noble fight of their youth, against fascism, rather than their later support for McCarthyism and America right or wrong, but boomers measured by what they are doing late in life? Seems odd.

by bento 2006-12-31 05:53PM | 0 recs
1960s Left: seperate perspective

As a 20-year-old kid in this new progressive movement of ours (and yeah, I was easily one of the youngest people at YearlyKos or in the MyDD Caucus Room...),

I think there's an aspect being left out of the story:  the "then they went home and had kids, and raised radicals" part of the story.  I know just so many people in the movement who's parents were hard-core peace activists or even political shakers.  

The thing is, and this is what is pushing the Youth Movement (which unlike you Matt, I think very much exists and is growing), the kids of the "dirty fucking hippies" flower-hippie set, those kids aren't activley engaged in this new movement as much.  They're liberal, sure, very liberal, especially socially w/ regards to drugs, sex, race, gender... but they're not taking a hands on leadership role in the movement.  

The kids of 1960s and 1970s liberal electoral politics people, those kids are the ones who ended up raised with an actual belief in the system as a means for change.  Those are the kids who are  leading and taking part in the Youth Movement of today.  It seems you have to believe in the system, even while being kicked around by it, in order to raise kids who believe in the system enough to work to change it.  

I think I may try writing a diary on this sometime later this week...I haven't written a MyDD Diary in like 2 years though, so we'll see.  

by johnowens2 2006-12-31 09:48AM | 0 recs
An Assinine Assesment

Radical street politics and confrontation are the best  and most effective elements of American political action going back before Lexington and Concord through the Whiskey Rebellion.  My own mother went on the "Race marches" in LA and Chicago in the 30s. And the unions did not succeed by being mamby pamby blog writers.

Maybe we looked to other things like our careers because we thought we had suceeded....Ford and Nixon wwere basically pretty liberal...few but the John Birchers thought conservatism had a chance.   And as the author above points out, we had succeeded, certainly as much as any past generation of lefties  (and i don't think we are lefties, I think we are in the mainstream tradition going back to our revolutionary ancestors):  black rights,womens rights, ended the war, war on poverty, desegragation, environmentalism (without which there is unlikely to even be any notice of global warming), gay rights....and we mmade more progress with confrontation and pol.action than yakking..In fact, more in one short period than any before or after in American history.

Now then, what have you disrespectful ill informed assholes accomplished?  A war against Lieberman, who cleaned your clock. ....last time i checked one in the hand was still worth two in the bush....could have won more races with those wasted resources.   Election of homophobic bigots like Stephanie Herseth?  Well, big fucking congratulations to you, Sonny, now that the religious right counter reaction (and there always is one) appears to have run its course.

Oh yeah, it ain't the 20 somethings writing checks to the lefty bloggers...it's us.  But we don't have to keep doing it.  There is no silver bullet...change takes a hail of bullets of all  kinds from all sides....except for the circular firing squad you are promoting.   The magic of the 60s was that it was hopeful and inspirational as we began to dream about the kind of world in which we hped to live and in many respects made that happen.

by NorCalJim 2006-12-31 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

It's funny that in this comment you reiterate all the failed strategic arguments of the 1960s left - the implication that a political movement must necessarily be young, that politics is about dreaming and feeling good, that street confrontation is always more effective than persuasion.

by Matt Stoller 2006-12-31 10:25AM | 0 recs
But There's A Message There, Matt

You're right to object.  But just note what this points to--segregation and the Vietnam War were not going away via normal politics.  No amount of normal politics would have stopped them.  No amount of normal politics could even get them seriously on the table.  It took intense confrontation to even begin the process of persuasion.

p.s.  There's nothing "feel good" about getting beaten over the head.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 05:35PM | 0 recs
Re: But There's A Message There, Matt

The early 1960s direct action techniques worked because they demonstrated the monstrosity of Southern segregation.  The late 1960s use of direct action techniques (Yippies, Diggers, and Motherfuckers) was self-indulgent and obnoxious.

In terms of Vietnam, the bulk of the evidence suggests that it was the Tet offensive and not the antiwar marches that made the difference.

I don't disagree with the thrust of your comments.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-01 01:09AM | 0 recs
The Diggers????

First, the low-hanging fruit: The Diggers weren't about direct action to stop the Vietnam War.  And even the Yippies, who were, only constituted a small fraction of the anti-war movement.  You say, "self-indulgent," but there was a media blackout, and their creativity found a way through it.  That's why they had an impact far beyond their numbers.  And since when is that a bad thing???

Second, you say it was Tet that ended the war.  But it was a whole lot more complicated than that, particularly since Tet was early 1968, and we didn't leave Vietnam till Nixon's second term.  The main thing that ended the war--the still buried reason--was the GI anti-war movement, as documented in the film Sir! No Sir! It started with the lowly grunts down in the muck, but in the end, even Air Force captains were refusing to fly bombing missions which they regarded--correctly--as war crimes.  You can't fight an illegal war when those fighting it decide to obey the law.  It just can't be done.  And that, ultimately, is what happened in Vietnam.

But the GI anti-war movement was an extension of the civilian anti-war movement.  It was both inspired by and supported by the civilian anti-war movement.  Not that they didn't more than return the favor once they got up and running.  But the point is that anti-war movement did end the war.  It was just vitally important to the powers that be that it never get the credit for doing so.  Just as it was vitally important that the GI anti-war movement should be flushed down the memory hole.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: But There's A Message There, Matt

Nixon's tapes show that Nixon was very seriously planning to go nuclear or bluff nuclear against North Vietnam. He was constrained by his own account by the large anti-Vietnam protests that he feared would turn to riots. Not by the media or the think tanks or any "reasonable" persuasion - by the threat of riots.

by bento 2007-01-01 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

There are exactly two decades during which almost all of the progressive change made in America was made: the "30's", meaning the decade from the election of FDR to the entry into world war 2, and the "60's" meaning the decade from the  assasination of Kennedy to the resignation of Nixon. Both of these decades stand out from the rest of the 20th century by the reality of relatively widespread radicalism - many people who wanted to dramatically change the American system of government and economics and were actively working towards this goal. If anything, those of the 30's whom you praise were more irresponsible: many of them, all the way up to the VP of the US, were outright supporters of Soviet communism. But those were the kinds of people who generate the pressure that makes the system  compromise with the moderates. The notion that moderates can achieve anything much on their own has little historical support. It's nice to think so; that doesn't make it true. And you'll notice that the contemporary right has many extremists, and does not disrespect them.

by bento 2006-12-31 06:04PM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

I believe you are oversimplifying what I wrote.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-01 01:06AM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

Wrong strategies, in your own opinion, Matt.  Pretty rigid for a young man, you are.  What I can't understand is why you think you're right about this.  You don't seem to have the understanding necessary to make such grave pronouncements.  Maybe you should stick to news accumulation and dissemination instead of helping tear apart a nascent new Democatic majority.

by NewsNag 2006-12-31 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

You're attacking positions he did not in fact take, which makes me wonder if you're really listening. He didn't say a movement had to be young.  He said his generation is pulling its weight in the current movement more than the young. This may or may not be true, but it is entirely different from the position you attacked. He did not say political movements are about dreaming and feeling good. The entire post other than the last sentence were about actual gains achieved. The last sentence does suggest that hopes and dreams are necessary to political movements; you want to dispute that, go ahead. He doesn't say that street confrontation is "always" more effective than "persuasion", a nonsensical opposition as street confrontation is often a form of persuasion, but his claim that protests and direct action have a long history of actual achievement is well-supported empirically.

by bento 2007-01-01 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

Perhaps it's the goddamn self-righteousness from goddamn baby boomers that creates the disrespect.  Particularly when it was boomers moving out the suburbs and starting to vote for Reagan and Bush and Bush that put us in this mess that we're in right now.  It's hardly universal, but was definitely there.  And perhaps it's the toal fucking silence on queer rights from our elders--until Gen Xers made it an issue in the eighties.

Without the political capital that Johnson gained from the Kennedy assasination, the civil rights legislation that Johnson passed early in his tenure would have taken much longer.  The long amount of time of mass protesting took to have any results makes me wonder whether the ineffecacy of the Johnson/Nion policy had more to do with ending the war than the protests ever did.

But whatever.  I'm sick of these fucking fights over battles that have been over for fourty years.  And I'm sick of having them brought up, over and over, and over.  Lieberman deserved a primary, and if the Republicans hadn't decided to throw all of their support behind him, he would have lost.  If you think contemporary organizing is screwed up, why don't you work to change it?  

by Valatan 2006-12-31 10:32AM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

Perhaps it's the goddamn self-righteousness from goddamn baby boomers that creates the disrespect.  Particularly when it was boomers moving out the suburbs and starting to vote for Reagan and Bush and Bush that put us in this mess that we're in right now.  It's hardly universal, but was definitely there.  And perhaps it's the toal fucking silence on queer rights from our elders--until Gen Xers made it an issue in the eighties.
Comments like this--assigning praise or blame to whole generations of wildy diverse, bitterly opposed factions and transfering them to individuals--always strike me as having less cognitive content than a good old-fashioned gutteral scream.

And the notion that Gen-X invented gay rights... well, I needed a good laugh.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 05:44PM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

Sorry.  I'm queer.  And I feel very alienated by my parents' generation.  And gay rights never seemed to be an issue until the AIDS marches in the eighties.  I"m not claiming that anything was invented by anyone.  I'm mainly claiming that boomers complaints about their successors are stupid.  

There is a lot that happened after they gave up, and I am sick of this bullshit about "the generation that made a difference."

by Valatan 2006-12-31 09:09PM | 0 recs
Who Gave Up?

Since you didn't get my message the first time around, I'll repeat it for you:

Talking about whole generations this way is stupid.

And even if you could sensibly talk about a generation as if it were a single individual you could praise or blame, the reasoning is fundamentally flawed. The activism of the 1960s was remarkably widespread for a relatively narrow age-range of people.  But, particularly for the white left, most of that was concentrated among those going to college--a large number of whom were working class kids, the first in their families to ever go to college (or at best the sons and daughters of men who'd gone to college on the GI Bill). Such levels of activism are always difficult to maintain as people move into jobs and married life, for the simple reason that institutional structures supporting such activism are relatively scarce in our society, while the responsibilities of work and family are substantially less flexible than those of college.

And yet, a number of people have commented here about ways in which people remained politically involved, either through their jobs, or by organizing in their communities, in ways that rarely gain media attention or public notice.    The fact that they were geographically more dispersed guaranteed that they would not be as noticeable, or as dramatically impactful as a group. That's simply a fact of life.

As for gay rights, advancing and defending gay rights in the 1970s was a lot more challenging than you can imagine.  Prejudice was a lot more intense and widespread.  And, as a result, gays tended to be intensely closetted or move to gay meccas.  This greatly reduced the scope of frontline battles.

And, for the most part, the gay community was fine with that. Gay activists often had a hard time getting their own community interested in politics. This was hardly a surprising development. It's only natural for people who've been beaten down or forced into hiding for as long as they can remember to want to enjoy their freedom when they can get a taste of it. Most will want to take a break from fighting.  And who can blame them?

There are rhythms to the development of political attitudes that are very different among a general population, and among the sorts of people who become political activists.  Us activists can wish it weren't so all we want, but wishing won't change anything.  We're a lot more likely to be effective when we realize this, and adapt accordingly.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 11:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Who Gave Up?

Such levels of activism are always difficult to maintain as people move into jobs and married life, for the simple reason that institutional structures supporting such activism are relatively scarce in our society, while the responsibilities of work and family are substantially less flexible than those of college.

Not true about scarcity.  There were institutional structures on the left, they just didn't work very well.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-01 01:12AM | 0 recs
What Structures Are You Talking About Matt???

America's old left parties had been decimated by McCarthyism--aided substantially by the mendacity of the Communist Party leadership itself, of course.  America's unions had likewise been purged of its most progressive forces, and the sorts of broader institutions they tended to create--also by McCarthyism.  The Democratic Party's structures were also still suffering under the after-effects of McCarthyism, as well as plain old-fashioned machine politics, never a friend to progressive politics.

I didn't say there were no structures. I said they were scarce.  Since you're claiming they were not, why not list 20?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 07:44AM | 0 recs
Stonewall = 1969

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_r iots

No, gay rights didn't start in the 1980s.

by Coral 2007-01-01 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

For a comment attacking self-righteousness, this is awfully self-righteous. It also has a clear double standard. Xers can legitimately attack boomers for supporting Reagan, even though Xers did so in higher numbers than boomers, and have consistently voted more Republican that either the  generation before or the generation following them. Generational wars are kind of silly anyway, but it is completely absurd for the more Republican generation to attack the less Republican one as too Republican.

As for gay rights, the gay rights movement uncontroversially began with the Stonewall riots. If you read underground publications of the 70's, the prevailing assumption was that "we are all basically bisexual" - not quite the modern gay rights view, but hardly a gay hostile one. Even Penthouse Forum had gay sex in the 70's (I was too young to read it, but when did that stop anyone?). And the first major pop stars who were avowedly gay or bi were booomers like Elton John and David Bowie. What broke the movement past the threshold was AIDS. If you want to take credit for that, go ahead.

I'm Obama's age, on the cusp of X and boomer, but I don't think it's the boomers who are being arrogant here.

by bento 2006-12-31 06:15PM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

Honestly, I'm just sick of boomers being so fucking prententious about everything.  So, you lived through the vietnam protests.  Ladie dah.  Things have changed, and let's work together to make things better.  The behavior of boomers throughout the seventies and eighties doesn't measure up to their boasting, so I think this generational warfare is stupid.    Gen Xers have a legimate beef against their parents.  So, rather than bringing up all this shit from the sixties, why don't we talk concretely about the candidates in front of us today?

by Valatan 2006-12-31 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: An Assinine Assesment

This thread was started by an Xer largely condemning the failure of the 60's. You burst in here cussing at people and making all kind of ad hominem attacks. You said two things that could generously be called points to which I responded: that Reagan's victory should be credited to boomers, and that boomers did nothing for gay rights. Both contentions are, as I showed, false. You also suggested that the civil rights movement would not have been so successful without the Kennedy assasination - perhaps true, but the boomers were mostly not of voting age when the Civil Rights Act passed - talk to the Greatest Generation.

Now you say you're sick of all the fighting - let's just work together to make this world better. Someone who comments with crude cursing and condemnation should expect reprisal in kind, though I have not done this, not desiring to assume a stupidity I do not possess.

What has Gen X accomplished as far as progressive social change? By your own account, the jump in gay rights was mostly a reaction to AIDS - an exogenous shock, then, like the Kennedy assassination. What else? At the time the boomers had achieved most of their signature accomplishments, the average boomer was younger than the average Xer now, so it isn't that you're still waiting to take the stage.

Attacking boomers for voting for Reagan is particularly galling. The oldest Xers cast their first votes for Reagan in higher numbers than the boomers, and repeated the performance for Gingrich and the Bushes. If the X vote had the same demographics as the boomer, there might have been no 1994 takeover; it certainly would have been less dramatic.

I was not, in fact, "there" for the Vietnam protests, but I've done some reading and talking to people to try to find out about that period.

by bento 2006-12-31 11:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

As BrionLutz points out:

they won...Civil Rights, Voting Rights, School Desegregation, Miranda Rights, Warren Court decisions, Environmental movement and creation of the EPA...

Though some of these victories have been slightly eroded, for the most part, they remain as permanent victories. Chomsky likes to contrast the impressive opposition to the Iraq invasion before it began with the relative apathy that lasted well into the Vietnam conflict. He credits this as part of the positive moral legacy of the 60's. I think your characterization of the 60's as a failure is unfair. They were so successful that they prompted an extremely organized and well-funded backlash from the right that, despite its enormous resources, has yet to turn back the clock to pre-60's in many areas.

Where I think you are correct and where you make your most interesting point is here:

The failure of the 1960s left goes back to two structural weaknesses - one is the assumption that liberals, radicals, and Democrats all made, that America was post-scarcity.  The failure to understand that economic security allowed a political left led directly to the right-wing manipulation of economic risk to our current situation.  The students of the New Left and the liberals of the time just assumed material progress, which left us unprepared for oil shocks.  But instead of coming up with new ideas, the New Left turned inward and the liberals were scared away from political combat.
Yes, the right understood that making the masses less affluent made them less powerful. I think you might be right that the 60's left, having ended the war and passed civil rights, took continued prosperity for granted  (actually, took for granted that prosperity would be shared, took for granted the New Deal) and failed to anticipate the new corporate globalism. But then again, the huge corporations owned all the media, so the left was always at a disadvantage. You can say all you want about how much more effective the new left is, but would we be any more effective at all without the internet? How much more ass could the left have kicked if they had the internet back then? It seems this is a big piece of the puzzle you are leaving out.

by miasmo 2006-12-31 10:30AM | 0 recs
Not all of the media

PBS and NPR are, at least for now, not corporately owned.  I wish I knew a way to push them more.

by Valatan 2006-12-31 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Not all of the media

They are corporately sponsored.

by miasmo 2006-12-31 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Not all of the media

And yet, they hold up (60s child) Tom Friedman on Jim Leher as a forthright visionary of the glories of global capitalism.

There are bright spots, Democracy Now, alternative radio, media matters (Bob McChesney's show), living on earth, but they are few and far between and actually getting scarcer as the political pressures grow greater to be "balanced".

I wish I knew how to push them too besides only donating during programs that are meaningful.

by adamterando 2006-12-31 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I was somewhat a DFH, although not that dirty.

As noted, while there were some attpempts at creating leftist institutions, the media perception of SDS and SNCC were as rifle toting revolutionaries, and the free speech movement as personified at Berkely by Mario Savio was painted as a communist front.

I remember seeing David Harris (ex-Mr. Joan Baez) speak at an all day thing at the Hollywood Bowl, and he was all for creating some institutional strength. But the left then, as now, always tends to resist any attempt to organize as authoritarian and thus evil. And when fringe groups are allowed to speak at major rallies, as happened earlier this year, it becomes as pointless as arguments between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea.

God bless Howard Dean for trying to impost some disclipline in the Democratic Party. But to see how resistant even centrist Dems are, one only needs to look at recent antics by Carville, et al, when called to march in line.

Still, this DFH yearns for unity. And for the small group loyalists and identifiers, get over yourselves. Sure, I think there should be less animal product testing, and more drug company regulation. But none of that will happen unless we elect some progressives first.

Priorities, kids, not your pet action committee.

by SteveAudio 2006-12-31 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Yes, this would be great - it's not about YOU, the protester, and you sticking it to the man, it's about making the world a better place. Leave your self-absorption at the door, be disciplined about what you are doing.  The immigration march is a good example, just people gathering quietly in blue jeans and simple white shirts, to listen and register their opposition.

by jc 2006-12-31 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I think a big problem here was the sixties rebellion against institutionalisation itself. In a sense, they were right. The grey flannel suit world with its predictability was more appealing than they appreciated, but it was not and is not the future. Nonetheless, you do have to create institutions to have longevity, and where the DFH's did so, even accidently (cough Greatful Dead cough), the culture persisted.

by bento 2006-12-31 06:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

It's been said before, but the tactics of the left - the street theater, the "dirty fucking hippies", etc - they STILL exist when there is a march.  

I live in San Francisco, so, when there is a march against Bush, it takes on this horrible narcissistic quality.  People make it about THEM protesting, rathe than about what it takes to get people to listen.

Why not have a protest where everyone agrees to come in their Sunday best?  Or at least business casual attire?  Where everyone brings, I don't know, cupcakes and jokes, to hand out to passerbys?

Imagine a march or anti-Bush meeting like this:

Man/woman in suit/nice dress:  "Excuse me sir/madam, would you like a cupcake?"  (the stage is set as well, by having non-confrontational/educational type of posters - no "Buck Fush!"  or such), then you lead in with "if I tell you a joke, and it's funny, and you smile or laugh, can I talk to you for a minute?"

That type of engagement with a person, recognizes that a person is busy, that for a peson to give up their time, they are more willing to listen if you give something in return, and as well, you make it fun!

We could learn something from the immigration demonstrations - no "dirty fucking hippies" anywhere, just people in blue jeans and a white shirt.  And I think, more successful as a result.

by jc 2006-12-31 10:49AM | 0 recs
Get Clean for Gene!

by Valatan 2006-12-31 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Get Clean for Gene!

Hey, just ragging on the narcissism.  

by jc 2007-01-03 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Get Clean for Gene!

I wasn't trying to rag on you.

That was a real slogan during the '68 primaries.  Sell yourself as credible so that you could actually advocate for a leftist candidate.

by Valatan 2007-01-04 07:02PM | 0 recs
Ah, Sweet Riot Memories!

I've been to a handful some really great political riots and a couple of them have been in SF: against Gulf War I in from Haight to Market, and post-Rodney King on Market St.

I gotta say this: I really miss how SF throws a riot.

Every once in a while, I wish I could hear bagpipes, drums, and the thunder of thousands marching again.  The delicious aroma of burning cop cars and gas stations...  Ah...

by hoose 2006-12-31 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Ah, Sweet Riot Memories!

I'm not sure how much this is irony, how much is accurate - "from Haight to Market" - really?

A bit more clarity please, for the irony-impaired?

by jc 2007-01-03 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Ah, Sweet Riot Memories!

Really very little irony at all.  The first Sunday night of Gulf War I, I sat in my apartment on Oak & Stanyan grading papers.  The ground started shaking, but it wasn't an eathquake.  As soon as I heard the bagpipes, I was out the door.  Several hours later, we were destroying a gas-station on Haight just off Market.

The exploding cop cars were in the Rodney King riots a year or two later.  That whole night was stupid.  I stepped off the train from the peninsula and was arrested (along with everyone else downtown) within an hour.  But it was really cool when folks started chucking maltov's at cop cars, and they actually started burning.

by hoose 2007-01-03 02:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Ah, Sweet Riot Memories!

All true.

by janinsanfran 2007-01-15 08:42PM | 0 recs
What you want to do

If you want to protest this way, no one will stop you, and it may be a good idea. The problem is that you want everyone to protest your way for it to work. That was the problem with the old communist left that the sixties new left rebelled against: ideas that have to be adhered to by everyone. So the demonstrations are done in the way that people willing to put in the effort want to do them. Since demonstrations easily get boring and are sometimes dangerous, they find ways to keep their own interest up. If you don't like these ways, but also don't have enough interest to protest, well, that sort of explains the puppets and drums.

by bento 2006-12-31 06:24PM | 0 recs
Drums And Puppets

I don't know how to break to you folks, but drums and puppets are about as traditional and old-fashioned as you can get. Folks have been using them for thousands of years.  Nothing freaky about them at all.

Plus, they have an actual appeal to people. If they didn't, the cops would not spend so much time and energy destroying them whenever they can.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 11:52PM | 0 recs
You talkin to me?

If you think I'm attacking drums and puppets, you misread my post. Some people like them, and some think them stupid, but I was just trying to explain some of their appeal, as a lot of non-protesters don't get it.

by bento 2007-01-01 07:26PM | 0 recs
Re: What you want to do

Hey, I showed up for Gulf War II - great turnout, fairly mellow vibe.  But a lot of the speakers were idiots - I don't know how ANSWER got to be the "leader" for that get together - talk about a walking breathing  paean to the "dirty effing hippies".

Near the end, I was following on Market, a group of drum bangers, who had the cool machismo eff you vibe. They ended up turningg off Market, (where I kept straight) onto Montgomery.

I read in the paper the next day, that that group rioted a small bit, when it got to California street - some broken windows and such.  

At any rate, your point is well-taken - "be the change you wish to see in the world".

by jc 2007-01-03 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Just wanted to say that I'm really enjoying your series focusing on the new left's successes and failures, that I think your conclusions are right on, and definitely worth discussion.

I'm 25 so I really jive with your viewpoint, but it seems that many people who participated in the New Left movement of the 60's are a little up-at-arms by this discussion.

Still, if we really want success for the future of progressivism, it's important that we look at ourselves through an extremely critical lense, which is why I think your criticisms are valid. The rise of the New Right is the first time since the creation of New Deal liberalism that the american left has completely lost control. As a movement, we can look to the last 8-10 years as a significant step backwards, and that's not a good direction to be heading.

The good news is that we are in a great position to move foreward again, and start patching up many of the wounds the neo-cons have created.

To do this we must work together- the old guard and new. The hippies didn't lose, they just got their asses kicked a little. This journal is a testament to the fact that their still alive and kicking, and a boon to the new progressive movement.

if we learn from the mistakes of the past, we can recapture that wonderful momentum of the 60s left, create a progressive infrastructure and craft real and lasting solutions to the problems in our lives.

end punditry.

by Mark Ristaino 2006-12-31 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt,

There's just so much that you don't know about the political struggles of the time or of what many activists went on to do with their lives.  
For example, supporting North Vietnam.  The U.S. invaded Vietnam without any provocation.  Do you think it was wrong to condemn that brutal invasion and war as evil?  We supported, without condemning U.S. troops, the right of the Vietnamese people to self-determination.  That meant supporting the leadership the majority of Vietnamese would have chosen, including Ho Chi Minh.  Did we think the NLF was perfect?  No more than the Sandinistas, whom I also supported, but we were clear enough to condemn imperialism and genocide, as in a million people killed, the bombing of civilian popualtion centers, napalm, etc.  And we condemned the worst war crimes and demanded accountability.
Dirty fucking hippies?  I beg your pardon.  I worked as a poll watcher in Mississippi for Charles Evers in 1971 and helped some black folks in their sixties vote for the first time in their lives.  Yes, that was helping to build the institution of free elections and the Dem party and contributed, as so many efforts did, to electing Bennie Thompson and many local African-American elected officials.  I joined many others to work on building alternative institutions in Vermont, including the Liberty Union Party, Bernie Sanders launching pad.  I worked with prisoners in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, and with the People's Bicentennial Commission in Vermont to contest the cultural hegemony of America as the best, fairest, etc.  
Retreat to academia?  Retreat?  I worked hard to get a Ph.D. and contribute to the development of an activist, progressive sociology in the U.S., unlike the crap I had to hear in four years as an undergraduate from 1968 to 72.  I taught almost 3,000 students over a twenty year career, including many your age who are now part of progressive movements, city councils and the blogosphere.  
As for others of my generation, after the war they tried to develop meaningful lives that included some of the normal life course developmetns like jobs, spouse, kids, spiritual and creative growth.  Excuse us if we weren't winning national elections.  Many of us were too busy moving into inner-city school districts as teachers, serving as doctors and nurses, health care aides, soccer coaches, activists in parent-teacher organizations, or, hardest of all, being good parents.
Our cultural victories were so enormous that they have constituted your taken-for-granted world.  Repudiate us, out of your impressive disdain and ignorance,and you re-imagine yourself right out of existence.

by Thaddeus 2006-12-31 11:09AM | 0 recs
Thank You For Covering This Aspect of Things

You've tied a lot of missing threads together.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Thanks for this.  It helps complete the vision of what has transpired.  Especially when you write:  "Our cultural victories were so enormous that they have constituted your taken-for-granted world."

And by the way, Matt's use of 'dirty fucking hippies' (DFH) is actually a fond self-description by people of our generation and activism, popularized on the internet, I believe, by Atrios on his site and picked up as a meme from there.

by NewsNag 2006-12-31 08:33PM | 0 recs
If we follow the 'Generations' thesis, ...

... then this is all to be expected. From the kind of  "Idealist" generation represented by the Baby Boomers, we get pretty youth rebellions, pretty lame midlifes with lots of strife with those of us in the following Pragmatist generation (only highlighted by the way that Baby Boomers Strauss and Howe decide to call us a "Reactive" generation), and are best represented by their late-bloomers, who are able to lead with a group of Pragmatists as their field generals and "Millenial" generation (like the GI or 'Greatest Generation') providing the footsoldiers for the movement.

So on that reading of history, pretty lame to date from the Baby Boomers would only be following the longer waves of history ... the best from them may be still to come.

by BruceMcF 2006-12-31 11:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

One important point has so far been missed, and that is the effect that the Powell Manifesto ha on changing history. Simply put, in 1971 most Americans were sufficently impressed with the improvements that first the new deal and late the great society had had on their lives that they tended to vote on economic issues. Powell looked at the nature of work and realized that if this orentation toward pragmatic voting wasn't broken, the Republicans would be a permanent minority.

The result? The funding of right wing think tanks by wealthy reactionaries which led to the distracting issues we now call the culture wars. It was once said that Reagan won by persuading working people to vote symbolically while the elite voted their economic interests. Excatly.That is why it seems like the left "lost" the sixties.

by herbal tee 2006-12-31 11:19AM | 0 recs
Very True!

Not nearly enough people know about the Powell Memo.  But it's only the latest chapter in a very long history of rightwing elite organizing.  It was that history that gave Powell the confidence to go ahead and write his memo.  It was the pre-existing infrastructure of the Chamber of Commerce that gave Powell a platform, both to address, and to mobilize for action.

The failure to couter-organize on the same sort of basis is certainly a failure of the left.  But hardly of the New Left.  Not too many of them had a spare $500 million lying around.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 06:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

It is silly to talk as if the left disappeared in 1970.  My left, the left of the seventies and eighties was just as significant as that of the sixties, though also mixed in its success given the onslaught of neoliberalism  in the wake of the 1970s world economic crisis.

In fact there was a left throughout the seventies and eighties that was extremely important and effective, and just as often based in mass protest. Obviously the feminist movement caused much more than cultural change--a complete revolution in the rights of women in the workplace and to be free of occupational restrictions that were commonplace before. Gendered job ads are not beyond my memory and their prohibition is not merely a "cultural" victory. The women's movement has also surprisingly prevented the reversal of Roe v. Wade, despite the Republican majority on the Supreme Court.  

Thousands of individuals were arrested in the early 1980s protesting nuclear power and weapons, and US policy in Central America.  Particularly successful was the South Africa divestment movement.  The direct action movements of the '80s   also built models of participatory decision making that repudiated the centralized star-oriented patriarchal models of sixties movements and helped rid the Left of that Leninist oxymoron known as democratic centralism.  

The direct descendant of the eighties anti-nuclear movement was the contemporary movement for global justice, which successfully disrupted a WTO meeting in Seattle in 1998, and has begun to heal the gap between anarchists and electoral activists:  "Don't just vote" was a huge improvement on radical perspective that saw voting as a "sellout."  These movements also emphasized the potentials of new computing and communications technology for organizing and emphasized the limitations of culturally progressive neo-liberals such as Bill Clinton who promoted less than progressive forms of globalization and excessive managerial regulation.  

To erase these movements is to succumb to MSM cliches of the Reagan era that constantly dismissed and minimized demonstrations that were significantly larger and more militant than those of the sixties by comparing them to the sixties as if that was the only time that resistance to our undemocratic form of government here in the United States ever had any importance.  

by TomSkidmore 2006-12-31 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I lived through and participated in some of the movements you describe, whereas the sixties movements were before my time. Nonetheless, I think these things were of comparatively little consequence. The anti-apartheid movement worked, but I think it was facile to attack racism in another country that hardly anyone in your own society is ready to defend. Not saying it was wrong, but it was easy, especially at the height of Reaganism, with so many problems at home. And the anti-nuclear weapon and out of CA movements, despite momentary successes, just failed. I didn't know the Spanish anarchist model had not yet been adopted in the 60's. Those 60's protests were actually Leninist in organization? I know SDS let the commies in, but not that they had adopted their organizational techniques. Seems unlikely to me. Was use of the SA model an innovation of the anti-nuclear (power) movement, then?

by bento 2006-12-31 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

The use of affinity groups and consensus process, a hybrid of anarchist and Quaker practices, began with the So Africa divestment movement at Stanford Univ in the late '70s and expanded to the anti-nuclear power demonstrations in Seabrook, NH and Diablo Canyon CA in '78 and '79. It was the first really rigorous way of looking at power, how it was gendered and how it flowed within a protest movement.  And the anti-nuclear power movement does deserve some credit for bringing nearly a complete end to nuclear power construction in the United States (unless you think stockpiling radioactive waste with half-lives many times that of a human life is a good idea as Tony Blair and so many Clintonites seem to do).

SDS was initially dedicated to a vague notion of participatory democracy, but it wound up being run by sexist egotistical media stars, and then fractionated into Maoist factions controlled by outside organizations such as the Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party, then known as the Revolutionary Union. Leninism took it from being a serious political organization to to pseudo-revolutionary farce.

So far, the consensus-based organizations have had their moments, see themselves as part of a global movement--with links to the Zapatistas and the European left, take a much more mature attitude toward electoral politics "Don't just vote" than their forbearers in the eighties.  And Seattle and other demonstrations for global justice have challenged corporate globalization with a call for global justice that is much more sensible and moral than a retreat to nationalistic protectionism.

by TomSkidmore 2007-01-01 05:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Agreed that the anti-nuclear (power) movement was successful though I  would call that the last boomer harrah, or the first harrah of people on the cusp like me. People of college age in the late 70's were boomers, but that movement peaked in the early eighties. I didn't know how affinity group organization became prevalent, so that is useful information. I've talked to people who were in SDS, and  I find little in their way of  thinking to emulate. All that said, I  think the actual achievements of the sixties (defined culturally as 63-73) dwarf those of the subsequent decades. Indeed, since the eighties, the prevailing battle has been to rollback the  sixties. This has accelerated recently,  but  is nothing new.

by bento 2007-01-01 08:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

As someone very involved in the Stanford anti-apartheid movement in 1976-77 and the anti-nuclear power movement in California I must make a correcton here: nonviolent action, affinity groups, and consensus process were a hybrid of anarchism and Quakerism, but it didn't begin at Stanford.

The Movement for a New Society (MNS) in Philadelphia developed this blend based on their work in the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam war work (and building on the pacifist consciencious resisters of WWII and the Ban-the-Bomb movement of the 1950s). MNS organizers trained thousands of people in their methods, beginning in the early 1970s in Philadelphia and New England, which first became promient in the gigantic demonstration at Seabrook, NH in spring 1976, a few weeks before the big demonstration at Stanford on May 9, 1976. Seabrook inspired folks at Stanford more than the other way around.

But, of course, there were many other strands that led to both Seabrook and Stanford 1976 as well as Diablo 78, 79, and 1981 (Oakland draft sit-in in 1971, the work of Mothers for Peace in San Luis Obispo, etc.).

Nonviolent action, consensus decision-making, and affinity groups were a great advance over the participatory democracy of the 1960s, providing a practical way to implement those notions. And the anti-nuclear movement provided much of the inspiration and training for the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970-80s and anti-corporate globalization movement of the 1990-00s (and some for the anti-intervention in Central America movement of the 1980s). These movements gave tens of thousands of activists a way to participate in social change during a time when electoral politics was dominated by right-wing Republicans and corporate Democrats.

By the way, the big demo in Seattle was in December 1999, not 98.

--Randy

by RandomNonviolence 2007-01-01 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

So when a pugnaciously liberal populist force emerges, we ally with people like Jim Webb and not groups like NARAL or checklist liberals like Chuck Schumer.

Webb was nominated and elected by an improbable coalition of the DC establishment and netroots.

by Alice Marshall 2006-12-31 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
Sometimes I go on a tear and blame the labor unions for buying the anti-Communist line so thoroughly that they did not create for us, and leave for us, the infrastructure of health and pension plans and other social institutions that they have in Europe, where the labor unions grew out of socialism and socialist ideals. It's the labor unions fault, I wail, that we don't have that here in U S of A.
So I think it makes sense for Matt to blame us, the liberals of the sixties, for not leaving an infrastructure in place to keep some left-leaning and humanistic think tanks alive, to leave some structure in Washington that would offer continuity and give strength to our democratic values.  I agree with him.  He's right.  It's unconscionable that we didn't.  
And those people are right too who say there was the civil rights movement, and the woman's movement and there was a lot of institutional progress there for a long time.
Only in the past seven years have they started to actively dismantle everything that was left in place.
The techniques of the right wing worked to co-opt
the institutions that formerly upheld our values, and I admire those of you who can see that and use them to help to reinstitute humanistic and lawful and democratic government in the U.S.
But blaming the movement for disintegrating because some in it took more radical splintered positions is dangerously close to adopting a right-wing talking point.  The right-wing will always use fringe behavior to smear majority values, and since we are a democracy we have to learn how to counter those attacks without blaming the fringe ourselves.
 We must have a strong enough voice backed up by institutions and the kind of infrastructure that has vanished to do this... A base that commands respect.
A new leadership looks around and finds that it is gone, there is a vacuum there. This is an insight that is valuable to me-- that we disintegrated into splinters and did not have the steam to reunify after our defeats.
  I think we were "crushed" as I have said here before, and that's what it looks like ...  But it is a point of view, after thirty years or whatever, that makes some sense.
by syolles 2006-12-31 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

It was McCarthyism got  the left out of the unions. Treating McCarthy as "just some nut" obscures the largely successful ideological program he enacted.

by bento 2006-12-31 06:38PM | 0 recs
"1960s Left" - who is that ?

a couple of ex trotsky / lenin - ites in Seattle, Boston and Berkeley?

Once the draft was over and saigon fell and gas went to 1 buck a gallon and the job market sucked, everybody just toed the line and tried to get a job.

It is right wing bullshit that a bunch of lenin-ites torn everything apart &

it has been part of the theology of the right wing sell outs, our DLC & other DINOs, that 28 weirdos who belong to 280 political organizations in Seattle, Boston and Berkely are the reasons the Dems lost in 1980, 1984, ...

moving from the 1960's left?

please.  your using the framing out the corporate stooge sell outs, like the Bidens and Hillarys.

rmm.

by seabos84 2006-12-31 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"From the kind of "Idealist" generation represented by the Baby Boomers, we get pretty youth rebellions, pretty lame midlifes with lots of strife."

A couple factual points.

1. The topic is "60's left". The 60's liberals were a combo of baby boomers (mostly college students born after 1945) and "The Greatest Generation", their parents who were the FDR, Depression, WWII and Cold Warriors.

2. 60's left arguably won the greatest liberal victories in US history second only to the US Civil War.  Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Miranda Rights, Environmental Protection, Head Start, Affirmative Action.  Their victories and policies are still giving the right wing Republicans fits.

"..with those of us in the following Pragmatist generation"

Cough, cough...JFK...the crown prince of the 60's liberals ran on a platform of "pragmatism" in his 1960 campign.

The 60's left did a lot and did damn good, carrying on the FDR liberal agenda into the 1980's, a 20 year run.

As for the boomers, Clinton was the first boomer president and he did great.  Bush Jr was the second and he was disaster.

50/50.

Next president...boomers Clinton, Edwards, Obama. Though Obama is right on the cusp. 1960 is considered the last year of the boomers birth dates.

Be cool to have Obama and make a clean break to the future.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-31 01:27PM | 0 recs
The parties have flipped now

My comment is far too pat, but in the interest of brevity:

The Democratic Party of the 1960's was a continuation of the coalition between Southern Democrats, hawks and northern liberals. It got ripped to shreds by events. This doesn't mean the left failed, it means an historical change took place that was ultimately not under the control of any single institution or individual. Progressives, liberals and radical had no home in either party.

Now the Republican Party is the home of racist southerners, anti-Islamofascist hawks and religious fanatics. Progressives have a home in the Democratic Party. Geography, culture and history are on our side now.

I applaud your efforts to learn about the history of the 1960's, it has always fascinated me as well. I think there are a lot of useful lessons there, the most important being one that was summed up by The Beatles:

"If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow"

Most things were summed up by The Beatles and John Lennon, in my view.

I tend to wince at portrayals of any kind about boomers. Too big of a generation to sum up accurately. I have known many fine, fine Democrats who were born between 1945-1964.

If LBJ's War on Poverty was such a sucess, why was MLK working with janitors in Memphis at the time of his death? The Vietnam War destroyed the War on Poverty, it never had a chance. To this day we haven't had a meaningful effort to do something about income inequality.

by jondevore 2006-12-31 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I think it may be better to look at the 60's phenomena as a consciousness awakening and social transformation movement
All aspects of society were opened up and permanently transformed by it
That includes politics, which for the first time began to include voices never before heard in DC
It's taken decades for all these changes to penetrate and create the possibility of actual power
And even now that is tenuous

That's because of two things:
One, the existing establishment ran the world, the good old boys.  They were not part of what we now call the conservative movement, but they were the main political and social infrastructure in opposition to the changes being sought at the time.
Two, the rise of movement conservatism as a force centered around politics, getting people elected and framing debates so that they could get elected

Movement conservatism has never been a really viable long-term competitor to the 60's phenomena, it's much more narrow, it's a reactive and reactionary movement seeking to slow down and control an inevitable, evolutionary process in history
In the end it will be seen as a contributing voice, but not able to prevent the debate already in motion

To say the 60's should have been primarily organized around creating a viable political force is an interesting idea, but it was just a very different beast from that
It sought to change the world, not to elect a president

It did try to elect a president, McGovern, but the main point there was that it transformed political campaigns for good, it changed the Democratic party for good

On most fronts, you don't see the 60's having created huge centralized institutions; rather you see broad and deep transformation, which was its agenda

Now there is enough of a common ground that truly new, young, fresh political forces like the netroots can rise up and actually have an effect, rather easily and quickly if you think about it
The 60's was about creating that ground, and that process continues even today

The 'heros' today may seem disappointing, but if you read their life stories they fought important battles, often doing things for the first time ever
They are sort of accidental political creations, not at all the product of a movement training camp

So, that's why the netroots and 'the new politics' or whatever it will be called, is needed, because there are big missing pieces, and the opposition has mostly focused on those pieces for many years

But if you suggest you'd swap out the kind of change the 60's brought, for having a lean political movement, I think it misunderstands the nature of the change
Most of the world we know and accept and expect now is built off of hard-fought transformations that happened grassroots-up over all these years

That's actually the problem Repubs have, they have a decent top-down system, but it's ahistorical because these massive forces of societal evolution are too far along, too real to mask over even with the best message-machine

But agreed there was a missed opportunity to notice, at some point in time, what they were building and create something that could have a decent chance against it the last few years

The politics being defined now could well become the stable political shape of these forces that have been in play, chaotically, yet gathering in strength and depth, over all these years
And in a way, perhaps to succeed, that shape will necessarily also incorporate the best of the objections and insights and traditional cultural themes that the right has served up during the conversation

by jimpol 2006-12-31 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

If you want to talk vision, the 1960s left could 'feel' politics with the best of them, but if you want to talk solid institutional structures, it's the New Right or the radical organizers of the 1930s who are the right model.

Matt's right that institutionally the 1960s left failed. It had to do with the assassinations, corporatization and Baby Boomers selling out to work for corporations to have the standard of living their parents gave them. DFH to me is not a person, it's idealism and it's possible to be institutionally and economically sound while maintaining our idealism.

by nonwhiteperson 2006-12-31 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

My only fear is that Democrats will focus on institutional change and throw women, etc. under the bus.

by nonwhiteperson 2006-12-31 03:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt:

I commented in the original diary a little late and you may not have seen my book recommendations:

The first is "Generations: The History of American's future From 1584 to 2069" by Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, published in October, 1990, by Quill Press.  It originally sold for $12.95 in paperback.  Personally, I think it is the best book on American history ever written.  However, only sections of it cover the 1960s.  Nevertheless, in taking the long view of history, it (correctly, I think) portrays the 1960s as the beginnings of a religious awakening that ended in 1980.

Second, try "Coming Apart:  An Informal History of America in the 1960s" by William L. O'Neill.  It was published by Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co, New York, around 1971.  (Library of Congress Control Number:  79152098; International Standard Book Number:  0812962230)  Disclaimer:  This book was recommended to me some time ago, But I have not read it.

On somewhat of a tangent, you may also be interested in the three-volume set on a history of broadcasting in the United States written by Erik Barnouw and published by Oxford University Press:

I:   "A Tower in Babel" (published in 1966)
II:  "The Golden Web" (published in 1968)
III: "The Image Empire" (published in 1970)

"The Golden Web" covers the years 1933 to 1953.  The other volumes cover before and after.

These books indirectly cover a lot of political ground in slide into where we are today.  Examples:

(1) A Tower in Babel covers the modern history of copyright and the early fight between American Society of Artists, Composers, and Publishers (ASCAP) and the radio industry.  The arguments somewhat parallel those regarding distribution of music over the internet.

(2) The Golden Web (pg 15-16) describes how the advertising agency Lord & Thomas entered politics to defeat the democratic candidate for Governor of California, Upton Sinclair.  

(3) The Image Empire thoroughly discusses television and politics in the 1950s and 1960s from the Murrow-McCarthy confrontation in 1954 to Nixon's election in 1968.

Enjoy.

by Airpower 2006-12-31 03:47PM | 0 recs
A brief apology from the 1960s Left

Dear Matt -

In reading your excellent series I get the feeling -- something unsaid -- that you want an apology from the progressive movements of my time.  I can't imagine you agreeing with that statement, but it does seem that way.  And in a way I have some sympathy for that point of view (that you probably don't think you hold, and perhaps do not).

There are days when I want to apologize.  When I was in the thick of things ... when nights were spent thinking of how to stop a war where every death was unbearable -- understand that I mean every Vietnamese death, because we identified with the invaded Vietnamese in a way that might be hard for you to understand, and is thought of as traitorous to this day -- precisely because the Vietnamese *were* invaded and the failure to stop that invasion was our charge ... in the thick of those nights and days which none of my friends or I really expected to live thru, we at least believed that we would leave you a better situation than you have.

It's inexcusable that you should have to fight against unprovoked wars again.  It's a horror that independent women are mocked, gay people are murdered, blacks are imprisoned in genocidal numbers, hispanics driven to drag themselves across deserts towards work they're damned for doing, and even white liberals  -- who you surely must know we despised as ineffectual antiprogressive hypocrites that brought us Vietnam -- are only recovering now from despite as too progressive.  It's a horror that you should have to face such things again.

For the little it's worth, I'm truly sorry.  Unqualified.

For what it's worth, allow me to explain a few things, or at least give a flavor.

My friends and I ... and we were just one small group of friends in what seemed like at the time a sea of like minds ... were very surprised to find ourselves alive after the Vietnam war ended.  We did not see ourselves as political strategests.  We saw ourselves ... and you can laugh, and perhaps you should, but it seemed not only reasonable but necessary given the exegencies of the time ... as combatants.  As I told my children, "I did fight in the Vietnam war ... but I was on the other side.".  Most people I knew at the time felt the same way.  We knew we could not win against a country that very clearly disowned and expelled us, but we could hinder, slow, stall, until the invasion in Vietnam and elsewhere was beaten back.  You have no idea perhaps how strongly the day to day dying in Vietnam, Chile, Uruguay affected us then.  It's all so routine now.

Improbable as it seems, Watergate happened and the tide receded and we were left alive on the shore.  Other things had been going on internally.  We were extremely socially adventurous as a group, trying forms of relationships that are pretty much unthinkable now.  Some of them were successful ... being gay is on the verge of being normative if it isn't terrorized into being dead.  Most were not successful, and our relationships suffered as a result, in ways that left us very isolated not only from a society that had tried to kill us, and that we in turn attacked, but from each other.

And you're so right about the starving of the working middle class.  Understand that we had no base among them, and that progressives were regularly physically attacked by industrial corporate workers.  When the Right began to starve those workers out we allowed our antipathy to blind us to our common interest with them.  Hard to support people that you think hate you, but sometimes necessary.  And the middle and professional classes began to feel the chill and reacted Rightwards and you know the rest.

But we were alive.  We found, or made work.  Things seemed OK.  At least the lynchings had stopped.  At least the FBI shootings, the midnight raids, the cluster bombs and napalm ... you get the picture.  I know it sounds very melodrama, but it was quite real at the time ... the tendency to see it as melodrama is part of a corruption of language and thought I'll touch on now.

Things turned very slowly.  I was one of those that saw it early, after Reagen's incredibly fortuitous (for him) shooting and subsequent beatification.  It began with language.  The assault on Political Correctness was at once an assault on our gains in academia and politics, and an assault on the very idea that groups get to define how they are described, not their enemies.

Before things got too bad on the ground, Clinton came.  He was almost tolerable.  Under the skin of comfort he provided, and his own laziness and cowardice, the worms did their work, and you're living with the result.  We were ... occupied at the time. With children.  With social and political responsibilities.  With running the ship that we tried once to sink.  And our very language had been undermined.  There were no words left to describe the reality of Post-Clinton America.  Racism ... discredited as the last refuge of the scoundrel.  Feminism ... an army of hairy armpits.  Imperialism ... laughable archaic rhetoric.

You see, the * things * remained, but the language to describe them had been vitiated.

So we begin again.  The old have, in many ways, the freedoms of the young.  You'll begin to see that as times move on.

But I'm truly sorry that you and your friends, who I admire very much, have to fight battles that we wrongly thought were won, and at such high cost.  We were not all white, as you might think.  The white ones got more publicity was all.  We tried, and did what we did, and hopefully will write a new chapter with you and yours.

Good luck to us all.  Happy New Year.

by belos 2006-12-31 04:07PM | 0 recs
Re: A brief apology from the 1960s Left

I have stayed out of this dialogue that Matt started last week even though I was a graduate student in the 60's (Columbia University) and opposed the war in Vietnam (I participated in all the major peace marches, one right up to the Pentagon and the bayonneted soliders with gas masks.) I was not a student activist by any means but I was strongly opposed to the war in Vietnam (as I was to the invasion and occupation of Iraq).

It's too big a subject for me to get my arms around at the moment although I applaud Matt's efforts to get his around it. But here are a couple of observations.

1. When we took to the streets to oppose the Vietnam War, there was literally NO ONE in any official position supporting us except Senator Fulbright from Arkanas. We were as estranged from the Democrats as we were from the Republicans. Our estrangement continued as long as the war continued, which was well into the 70's.

2. We saw John F. Kennedy assassinated, Martin Luther King assassinated, Robert Kennedy assassinated, and key members of the Black Panthers assassinated (which basically decapitated the Black Power movement). I remember well the Democratic presidential convention in Chicago where friends of mine were literally kicked down the stairs by Mayor Daly's police. To say we felt envelopped by black political clouds from all sides is an understatement.

3. We believed that the War against Poverty was going to work, until it failed, and that the voter registration drives in the South were going to empower blacks electorally, until Goodman Schwerner and Chaney were murdered and their killers were not brought to justice.

4. In late 60's I moved to Europe. When I moved back to the U.S. a decade later, the Republicans were harvesting the early fruits of their strategy to transform the U.S. into a single party state. They had co-opted conservative Christians into the GOP as its electoral base, and, pretty much as President Johnson had predicted when he signed the Civil Rights Act, the South was on its way to being lost to the Democratic fold and the Democrats were on their way to losing working majorities in Congress.

Once Reagan was elected, he set the country on course to undo the New Deal, which has continued uninterrupted throughout George W. Bush's presidency with the help of more Democrats in Congress than I care to think about.

I am simplifying a complex situation to make the point that I do not think that the 60's "left" was a failed political movement because its members were lacking in leadership, organizing or strategic skills, or because they became drug heads or counter culturalists. They failed because the "rapport de forces", the overarching political alignments in the country, were not in their favor and could not be surmounted or transformed.

What is more consequential for the future, though, is that many of those of us who came of age politically in the failures of the 60's anti-war, anti-poverty, anti-racism struggles are now squarely in the progressive movement, and many of us (yours truly!) are proud to consider ourselves progressive netrooters to boot. The time has come when I/we feel the call to re-engage in the aborted political activism that spurred us to oppose the Vietnam War in the 60's, and to support the War on Poverty and the civil rights movement.

As for our current politics, if I am in any way representative, I suggest you have a look at the website I launched last September, www.CitizensWinningHands.net. It's goal is to empower American citizens and voters to use the Internet to get into the driver's seat of American politics where they belong. We may have been isolated and without allies to achieve our goals in the 60's, but the times have changed now that the American people have experienced first hand what Republicanism and Big Money dominance of our politican system really means and the progressive movement is offering solid alternatives.

by Nancy Bordier 2006-12-31 05:17PM | 0 recs
Very Well Said!

Not to take anything away from you personally (au contrare, I'm delighted & reinsprired to read what you wrote), but I think Matt needs to multiply this in his head by a couple hundred thousand to begin to get an accurate picture.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 05:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Very Well Said!

I think I haven't been clear.  I'm not just criticizing the New Left here - I hold the liberals themselves deeply responsible.  That's my fault for not clarifying the different actors.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-01 01:27AM | 0 recs
That's A Good Clarification

And it's welcome.  But my point underlying point is a deeper one.  It's about going beyond blaming anyone to focus more on the historical, cultural and institutional forces that severely limited what was possible in ways you have yet to recognize.

It may seem far afield, but one way to get a handle on what I'm talking about is to compare the historical development of European welfare states with the American one. Germany, for example, instituted universal health care in 1880 under Bismark, arguably Europe's premier conservative political figure of the post-1848 19th Century.  He didn't do it out of the goodness of his heart.  He did it to undermine the power of the fledgling Social Democratic Party, and he saw that as necessary because of the intense concentration of industrialization in Germany.  (All European countries have had left parties like the SDP. America has not--another key difference.) The pattern of industrialization in America, in contrast, was incredibly dispersed, drawing on an ethnically diverse working force, with a constant flow of new immigrants, many of them readily intimidated.

For all the success European elites had in preventing the "inevitable" Communist revolutions, they paid a high price in concessions that gave workers substantial benefits they took as rights.  Even when American workers were making higher wages, this gave them a higher level political consciousness and capacity to resist.  This was virtually destroyed, of course, by WWI and WWII.  But once that was behind them, there was a tremendous foundation for them to push for dreams long deferred.  And the post-WWII growth of robust welfare states quickly ensued.

America's history is radically different.  The national welfare state did not emerge until the Great Depression--two generations after Germany's--and it was highly fragmented into different programs, with different eligibilities, and a great deal of control at the state and local levels, much of it crafted to preserve the power of conservative Southern elites.  Furthermore, there were devastating roll-backs of labor rights under Taft-Hartley when the GOP briefly gained control of Congress in 1947-48, roll-backs which the Democrats never reveresed in all their years of power that followed.

If you think that all this is far removed from the issues at hand, then I suggest that that perception itself is a function of the very successful ideological war that conservative elites had fought well before the 1960s rolled around.  With conservative power rooted in, and devoted to supporting the ruling elites, organized labor is the most significant single counterforce that exists in the modern world. Histories of progressive politics that ignore this fundamental fact are inherently incomplete.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: That's A Good Clarification

America's history is radically different.

Well knock me over with a big fat spoon.  ;-)

Absolutely correct and this fact has yet to be fully grasped by the Left (Old, New, Newer, Newest, & yadda-yadda.)  

The Labor movements in Europe, from the objective conditions of European History, were early and vigourously supported by a large section of mainstream, so to speak, intellectuals, activists, and politicans.  In the US the Labor movement had a vastly different history based on, again,  historical objective conditions.  

Dragging this back to the topic at hand, the single greatest intellectual failure of the New Left was the recourse to European-based analysis that had nothing to do with conditions in the US.  

Intellectually, the US labor movement can only be successfully supported by arguments and analysis from these conditions and the socio/cultural mindset(s) these conditions evoke¹.  The labor movement is the single best source of funding for an indigenous American Left and the labor movement provides a 'grounding' for the American Left to prevent straying off into La-La Land.  The plutocrat's cracking of this natural alliance is their single greatest triumph of the last 40 years.

¹ Complexity Theory confirms these two schemas are in a mutally reinforcing positive feedback - but that's another topic.  

by ATinNM 2007-01-01 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

A number of thoughts here:

The successful progressive leadership of the 1960s (and 70s) included people like Gaylord Nelson, Mike Gravel, Eugene McCarthy, Frank Church, Scoop Jackson, Hubert Humphrey.  This list conspicuously includes people on both sides of the Vietnam War issue.  This is because ones stance on Vietnam did not define whether one was progressive or not.

The worst legacy of the 1960s New Left was causing a redefinition of the left based on ones position on Vietnam and subsequent wars, as well as other side issues like feminism and environmentalism.  This was a fatal mistake that set back the U.S. left for a generation.  What defines the left is a particular political orientation vis-a-vis social class and organized labor, and nothing else.  It certainly set my own political thinking back for years - I spent many years mistakenly equating liberalism with silly utopian notions like pacifism and veganism, and carried implicitly anti union and anti working class attitudes because of this as I equated the working class with apathy, ignorance, or reactionary attitudes on these issues.  It was only after I came to realize that the basis of the left is labor and social class that these attitudes changed.  I'm afraid there is still far too much of this legacy from the 60s remaining in the left today and holding us back.

Aligning with people like Jim Webb is long overdue.  This topic deserves a post of its own but I'll just say here that it seems to me you can base the left in one of two things: social class, populism, and bread and butter issues on the one hand; or a starry eyed utopianism on the other hand that many people find offensive because said utopianism implicity or explicitly involves a rejection of things valued by these people and their culture (including but not limited to: a military tradition, working class jobs that may traditionally have been strong in particular areas such as logging or mining, masculinism and strongly held beliefs as to what that involves, and religion.)  Spit on the deeply held traditions of a people and one is sure to send them running with open arms into the waiting ranks of the opposing political party.  And let's face it, the 60s New Left, and the 80s and 90s punk, postmodernist, and multiculturalism/identity politics/political correctness movements, did just that by creating a social atmosphere in which deeply held cultural beliefs became symbols of oppression to be opposed, or worse, to be poked fun at in an ironic hipster manner.  This is not some right-wing "meme", it's a fact that we really need to accept and make amends for.  The fact that somebody like Jim Webb, who should have been a Scoop Jackson type liberal all along, has come back to our ranks and apparently done so of his own accord bodes extremely well.

The 60s New Left is not the same thing as the cultural changes that took place largely in the 60s and should not be confused with them.  They are two different things:  the cultural changes included Civil Rights (long overdue, and something which was as much a movement of the 50s as the 60s), and rock and roll (again, as much a movement of the 50s as the 60s).  The New Left on the other hand may have started with good intentions, participatory democracy and all that, but far too many people were beguiled by Maoism, anarchism, militant third world revolutionary sympathies, and similar ideological black holes.  By the early 70s this led to the proliferation of groups that can only be described as bizarre political cults: the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Weathermen, the Lyndon LaRouche group, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Communist Workers Party, Venceremos, and NATLFED all come to mind and I'm sure there were many more.  The one thing we definitely do NOT want to emulate is the 60s New Left, which was a recipe for disaster and still is.

That said, there were some good elements within the New Left, at least early on.  Todd Gitlin is a voice of reason among the 60s New Left veterans.  Some of the very early SDS documents, like the Port Huron Statement, are well worth reading.  That was before SDS was beguiled by ultra-left cultism.  Todd Gitlin at least recognizes the errors the New Left took and is not hesitant to criticize them.

While the New Left was playing at revolutionary fantasies, the real significant progressive change in the 60s was coming from people like Scoop Jackson, Hubert Humphrey, and Lyndon Johnson - people of the WWII generation by and large, the same people the 60s New Left derided as "technocrats".  Their political mentors were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and possibly to a lesser extent Eric Hoffer and Reinhold Neibuhr.  I would suggest if we want to look to a genuine American liberal-progressive tradition that actually works and has proven mainstream appeal, that is the place to start.

Today's Democratic activists ignore the lessons of the past at their own peril.

by Old Yeller 2006-12-31 04:23PM | 0 recs
Not Exactly!

First, correcting the record. Then on to bigger game.

(1)

This is not a universally held assumption.  This comment from Frenchman and this one from Paul Rosenberg bristle at this idea; these two insightful and brilliant commenters are defending the purity of the 'Dirty Fucking Hippy', and point out that this archetype has been mischaracterized for all these years.  Rosenberg argues that bloggers need to dream big and stop following the ins and outs of the 2008 race - in this they should imitate the DFHs.
I don't mean we should ignore it totally.  I meant we shouldn't be following it blow-by-blow like devoted 12-year old fans, hanging on every pre-season pitch as if it was the World Series.  We shouldn't be letting candidates dictate the terms to us.  We should be be debating the terms amongst ourselves.  I mean, isn't what it really means if we have the power?

Here, read the original--all 3 paragraphs:

I find it ludicrous how much attention people are paying to jostling for position in the 2008 race, when there is little for us to do at this point but react.  Big yawn.  We could do this in front of our TVs.

A far more sensible thing for the left blogosphere to be doing is precisely what you suggest--figuring out what our ideal candidate should stand for, so that we have some standard to judge by.  In 2004, it was simple, clear, and "negative"--Not Bush, and more specifically, Not Iraq, was quite enough.

But this time around we need more... much more.  Not just about getting out of Iraq, but about rethinking the "war on terror," aka "putting out the fire with gasoline," and how that fits together with other major challenges, such as global warming, worldwide resource depletion, food and water shortages, etc.  Above all, what we need is not a series of proposals about how to deal with these problems, but a unified vision from [which] such proposals flow.  That's what a DFH would talk about.

As an indication of the kind of way I think we should be following the race, here's a comment I made earlier today.  It's a long comment that quotes from a Huffington Post piece by novelist Jane Smiley (always a smart move, if I do say so myself), to set up the disctinction between two types of populist appeal--one based in resentment, the other not--then says:
My hope, with Edwards--and it's something I'll be looking for signs of--is that he'll manifest a clear and consistent appeal in terms of "liberty from want" that says everyone should be taken care of, rather than a narrower appeal to resentful self-assertion by the more symbolically privileged (i.e. good old boys) of the have-nots.

This, for me, is one of the key indicators I have for whether I'll end up in his camp.  I'm sure that other indicators will come to fore as well.  But this is one that will remain key, whatever else gets added to the mix.

I'd like us to be talking about things in these sorts of terms, having a conversation that's focused on what the standards should be.  Not which candidate we like best right now.

It's just that, even when I was 12 years old, I didn't watch the pre-season like that. I had memorized the lifetime states of all the old greats--Ruth, Cobb, Hornsby, etc. as well as every one on the Giants' roster.  I had myself an analytical framework for every pitch that was thrown.  A lot of kids used to watch baseball that way.  We should take our politics just as seriously.

(2) Bigger Game.  I'm not here to defend the 60s.  I was there, and tore my hair out over precisely the sort of inadequacies you talk about.  What upsets me is not critiques, but critiques that misdiagnose the problem--which, in general, you do not--or that misdiagnose where it stems from--which I think you do.

Here's how: The New Left was (a) a youth movement, (b) largely divorced from earlier movements by the devastations of McCarthyism, (c) largely (over Vietnam) at war with what should have been its closest institutional allies--New Deal liberals ala LBJ, and the labor movement, virulently anti-Communist and pro-war under George Meany (d) beyond deeply distrustful of politics as usual, since its formative political experience was the Civil Rights Movment, a moral war against America's politics as usual since 1776 and (e) deeply infiltrated by government agents (COINTELPRO, etc).

It's completely unrealistic to expect such a movement to survive as long as it did, and then to reinvent itself in quasi-traditional organized political forms. For that to have happened, there would have had to be much more institutional outside support. In short, the failure of the New Left was foreordained in the terms of its creation: it was born from a vacuum created by earlier fragmentation. It was always a fragment itself.

Now, had major figures such a Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy lived, it is possible that a new infrastructure could have been cobbled together on the fly, particularly if Kennedy had been elected in 1968.  But there was no pre-existing infrastucture there, which is why those deaths were so devastating, not just psychologically and spiritually, but politically and institutionally.

In contrast, the success of the "New Right" was grounded in two salient facts: (1) It had solid old right foundations.  We're talking money, honey.  We're talking institutional support out the yin-yang.  We're talking social networks.  The whole nine yards.  (2) Racism.  Racism is what made the New Deal so weak in the first place (look at any serious comparison of the US welfare state vs. European ones).  And the weakness of the New Deal is what made it so vulnerable to repeated attacks, which finally broke through in a major way from Nixon's 1968 "Southern Strategy" onwards.

In short, I'm saying you have to widen your gaze significantly beyond the actors you've highlighted. And there's plenty more than what I've just described.  

One of the great strengths we have today is that there's a lot more continuity now than there was back then.  Another, of course, is the internet.  And I'm very glad that you're taking advantage of both to pick the brains of a wide cross-section of us.  But believe me, baby, you've only just begun.  And I say this not as someone who knows it all, but as someone who is still amazed to discover whole new aspects of the story I had never even suspected before.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-12-31 04:30PM | 0 recs
Yes. Very important.

Here's how: The New Left was (a) a youth movement, (b) largely divorced from earlier movements by the devastations of McCarthyism, (c) largely (over Vietnam) at war with what should have been its closest institutional allies--New Deal liberals ala LBJ, and the labor movement, virulently anti-Communist and pro-war under George Meany (d) beyond deeply distrustful of politics as usual, since its formative political experience was the Civil Rights Movment, a moral war against America's politics as usual since 1776 and (e) deeply infiltrated by government agents (COINTELPRO, etc).

I hope the new progressive movement can avoid being undermined by such forces.

by Coral 2007-01-01 06:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Not Exactly!

Some continuity existed between the Old and New Lefts.  The 'red diaper babies'  and the respect given to the surviving members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade are two examples.

The discontinuity, which I agree existed, stemmed from the worship of the Soviet Union in the Marxist/Leninist - the largest section of the OL - CPUSA; the floating faction fight formally known as the American Socialist Party; the destruction of the indigenous American Left, such as the IWW, during World War I and the exiling of leaders and potential leaders  - Goldman, Reed, Hayward - in Red Scare of the 20's.  One result was the distaste reaching to active loathing of substantive discussion and critiques of the American Ruling Class as those discussions always descended into puerile debates (Read: Shouting Matchs) such as "Is the Soviet Union a degenerate worker's state or merely a manifestation of state capitalism?"  (A debate, to my deep regret, I got myself involved with.  ;-0)

Without this discussion and a development of even an incoherent intellectual base the default 'Bodies on the Line' and street activism for street activism's sake became the defining characteristic within the New Left.  

The institutions that could have helped to rectify this situation, the labor movement, the League for Industrial Democracy, & etc stood aside.  This Anti-Communist Left were more concerned with being Anti-Communist than Left and so they refused to engage.  If they had engaged they would have gotten thousands of recruits and their organizations wouldn't have become moribund over the next 20 years.

(I note, but do not discuss, the Neo-Cons arose from those same organizations.)

by ATinNM 2007-01-01 08:18AM | 0 recs
A Very Good Description

My point would be simply the degree to which the existence of red diaper babies (mine was pink, I'm afraid) and respect for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade did nothing to counter the other--largely institutional--ills you so succinctly describe.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 09:24AM | 0 recs
Re: A Very Good Description

My comment was intended as an expansion, not a critique.

by ATinNM 2007-01-01 09:40AM | 0 recs
After You, Alfonse!

And mine was a reinscription, not a defense!

Would you like another crumpet??? <g>

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt -

I appreciate your perspective of the 60's and accompanying request for comments.  I am a member of the baby boom generation (born in 1955) so here's my input.

My memory of the 60's was a time where the country was very torn and very scary.  One major difference between (my recollection of) the 60's and today is today's left is fighting to light a fire of passion under the population of the US.  The 60's were full of large demonstrations, riots, cities burning and murders.  One element related to racial issues.  The other was Vietnam.  One difference between Vietnam and Iraq was having a draft during Vietnam.  This, I believe, was the match that lit a fire of passion in a number of people.

I do agree with other posters that the positive results of the 60's and 70's tend to be forgotten - except by the right who are trying to undo them.  The movement had positive and negative elements.  I agree that no one saw what was coming in the mid to late 70's with inflation and energy prices.   However, who does foresee the future perfectly?

The political activists of the 60's that stayed in an activist movement tended to be from the radical end of the 60's left.   I never felt comfortable with the radical view of wanting to totally remake the government in the US.  I didn't see that as a realistic goal.  The goal of the current Progressive movement is much more realistic than that of the 60's radicals.

Kos and Jerome Armstrong made a very valid point in "Crashing the Gate".  Many activists from the 60's view paying those working in progressive institutions a living wage as negative.  Requiring people who work for progressive institutions to live at poverty level does not create an incentive to get the best and brightest or insure attaining long term goals.

I do think this ongoing discussion of the 60's gives us all a variety of perspectives.  Examining history allows everyone to learn about the gains and mistakes of the past.  This becomes a basis to insure the current Progressive Movement does attain its long term goals.

by dannynyc 2006-12-31 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
I am at the tail of the boomer era.  I never identified with them as they were too everything.  and much too silly.
and much too selfish and self involved.  They never understood the practical and always went overboard on everything.
I always Identified with the Roosevelt dems.  the new deal dems.  practical and populist dems.  I longed for a change to come to the party.  
This year I was so happy to see the rise of the pragmatic and populist in the party.  and even though many say Dean is a liberal I always thought him a visionary populist.
And That is why I support Obama.  He is very much in the mold of the dems before the boomers screwed up the party.  He is the best of what the party is.
by vwcat 2006-12-31 05:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

The comparison between the 1960's Left (and by implication the 2000's Left) "vs" the 2000's Democrats has as an antecedent the FDR and Henry Wallace 1930's-40's Left "vs" the 1940's-50's Democrats of Humphrey, LBJ, and Truman, who basically threw FDR's New Deal progressives, including Wallace, out of power.  Wallace, et al, believed strongly in a peacefully coexisting postwar world, even with Russia, and in a further expansion of the social safety net here at home, kind of give peace a chance with nukes in your back pocket.

The Humphrey-LBJ-Truman Democrats were Cold Warriors, who like the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) of the 2000's, primarily agreed with the excessively avaricious ambitions of giant American corporations as well as their corporatist militaristic and unipolar views of the world.  Eisenhower later called this big business crowd the military-industrial complex (MIC), attributing a potential malevolency to it.

The Cold War Democrats, as now with the DLC, as well supported the interests of the powerful banking-financial complex (BFC) of the time, which then as now pretty much runs the whole game.  Humphrey, LBJ, and Harry won out over the postwar Left because the Cold Warriors of the MIC and CFC financially backed them and because this same faction also controlled the message ("The Medium IS the Message", McLuhan, remember?  Just think DLC/MIC/BFC).  And then as now, nothing sells as cheaply and as quickly as good old-fashioned fearmongering and flag-wrapping.  (hmm, flag wraps, a yummy and trendy patriotic treat!)

And, as one commenter pointed out, Humphrey and LBJ, et al, later indeed did some progressive good on their own, but not without first escalating a jingoistic bipartisan Vietnam intervention into a mammoth regional war and tearing the U.S. apart (killing 2+ millions of Indochinese), while simultaneously provoking the American rightwing business establishment into financing the eventual further rise of the New Right, having begun this expanded endeavor in earnest in 1964.  It seized power only four years later, under Nixon, and still runs the country today, as well as the media more than ever, with the interspersed Democratic policies of Carter and Clinton rather neutered by rightwing power and influence.  

I think that's still pretty much the choice Democrats (and Independents) face today, either appease the corporate complexes and try to enact a milder form of increasingly fascistic runamok colonial-style capitalism at home and abroad, or make more of an all-out effort to grab the controls of this American supertanker and begin to turn her around.

I think there's a good case that can be made for both, but I believe that the Moderate Left of the 2000's (not the DLC, in case there is confusion) holds beliefs and ambitions closer to the heart of the majority of Americans in general, that is if the public doesn't have its arms twisted otherwise by a squeezeplay against the American economy by you-know-who (and you-know-what) or a major attack on the nation, legitimate or not.  Then the amygdala can take over if sensible leadership isn't in place.  So bring on 2008 and unite strongly behind whoever we get, and then in 2009 let the Democratic-controlled smackdown begin.

What I really wanted to write about though is that I think that the 60's Left was mostly carried along on the huge, unprecedented sociocultural wave that broke over the country and West in general during that time, and which was directly empowered and emboldened in the U.S. by the much more dangerous (to its brave participants) Civil Rights movement that came before it and which actually led the way, and then after the 60s cultural rip tide turned the country inside out (for the better) it subsided back into the ocean of the masses from which it had come.  That left the country more tolerant, more informed, more aware, more creative, and more active, permanently. (In all of this, I think, a huge undercurrent rising from the murders of Martin, Bobby and John helped propel an unconscious rage that itself provided a lot of the unrelenting momentum of the counterculture.)

To stymie such a mass movement took all of the political daring, cunning, and media manipulation found in the playbook of the operatives and public faces of this country's extensive and complex oligarchic class and all of its tools of suppression and usurpation, and it took time.  It's a miracle that the 60s even happened and that the Left ever wins anything in this country, given the entrenched power that Big Money has in a nation that it literally owns (except for that We The People thing, that every so often manages to SURGE its way to negating some of the more egregious excesses of the Right).

Also, there is no military draft in the 2000s.  That was the engine that drove the 1960s counterculture that generated the wave of revulsion against American leadership and its series of Asian wars.  Give the 2000s time, though.  It's well on its way to that same level of revulsion, especially with today's reprobate national rulers and a news media now finally maybe about one-quarter as ready to report facts and truth as did the media of the 1960s.

After all, you do know that a third western Asian war and then a fourth, and then perhaps a Latin American one, will come along.  Then maybe an African intervention just for the heck of it;  don't want to leave out any continent if we can help it.  We're just such a compassionate nation that we just can't help ourselves, don't you know.

by NewsNag 2006-12-31 07:51PM | 0 recs
No, Not At All!

The comparison between the 1960's Left (and by implication the 2000's Left) "vs" the 2000's Democrats has as an antecedent the FDR and Henry Wallace 1930's-40's Left "vs" the 1940's-50's Democrats of Humphrey, LBJ, and Truman, who basically threw FDR's New Deal progressives, including Wallace, out of power.
Sorry, but you're 0-for-3:

Truman was FDR's Vice President.  LBJ worshipped FDR, and his Great Society was intended to complete the ediface of the New Deal. And Hubert Humphrey was the leading white advocate of civil rights in the 1940s--blacks being the one group that was most left out of the broad reach of the New Deal.

There was something that happened to alter the center of gravity in American liberalism from pre-WWII to post-WWII, but it was a good deal more complex than what you're portraying.  It had to do with both the deviousness of the American Communist Party, and McCarthyism, plus two or three other major factors as well. But none of that made the sort of policy difference you're alleging. Then, when you say stuff like this:

The Humphrey-LBJ-Truman Democrats were Cold Warriors, who like the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) of the 2000's, primarily agreed with the excessively avaricious ambitions of giant American corporations as well as their corporatist militaristic and unipolar views of the world.
you're simply revealing a profound ignorance of the politics and economics of the time.  Not only were Truman, Humphrey and LBJ strong union supporters (quite the opposite of the DLC), but even the corporations back in those days were far less nakedly avaricious. The culture simply didn't allow it. Union density in the private sector was about four times what it is today. Corporate CEO's made salaries that were an order of magnitude closer to their lowest-paid workers than they do today. And it was inconceivable that an American corporation would ship jobs overseas and claim to be a good corporate citizen.

In short, you are talking through your hat ten different ways at once.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 12:27AM | 0 recs
Maybe yes, maybe no
My take is a little different from yours, but I think that in general you've been closest to right throughout this thread.

The Humphrey-LBJ-Truman Democrats were Cold Warriors, who like the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) of the 2000's, primarily agreed with the excessively avaricious ambitions of giant American corporations as well as their corporatist militaristic and unipolar views of the world.
you're simply revealing a profound ignorance of the politics and economics of the time. Not only were Truman, Humphrey and LBJ strong union supporters (quite the opposite of the DLC), but even the corporations back in those days were far less nakedly avaricious. The culture simply didn't allow it. Union density in the private sector was about four times what it is today. Corporate CEO's made salaries that were an order of magnitude closer to their lowest-paid workers than they do today. And it was inconceivable that an American corporation would ship jobs overseas and claim to be a good corporate citizen.
You're both right and wrong. Granted, the guy you're responding to missed the pro-union dimension to Humphrey-LBJ-Truman, but as you yourself say, and I emphasize, that was acceptable in the mainstream of the time. Hyper-capitalism had not yet taken over.

The other guy is talking about WHERE they stood on the establishment-antiestablishment axis. You're talking about the actual policies, something different. Both are worth considering.

So is this, if we're going to go that deep:

Would the New Deal ever have happened if not for the "Communist threat"? Probably not. Sure, the communists were devious as hell. But they're not the only ones. The system that won the cold war was the mixed economy of the New Deal. As soon as the "Communist threat" was eliminated, out went the New Deal. The American middle class got baited and switched. Which is why the CEO salary relative to the ordinary worker jumped by an order of magnitude.

I guess the point of this is that you have to look at the period before the sixties, too. Only then can you appreciate what was won and what was lost in the sixties.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 05:09AM | 0 recs
Agreed!

It's not about the individual poltical figures.  It's about the alignment of macro-political forces.  See the comment I just posted that goes back to the origins of Germany's welfare sate under Bismark, and I think you'll see that our thinking is pretty similar at bottom.

As for what you say about the New Deal, I couldn't agree more, though perhaps I'll put it a little differently than you might (or perhaps not): People really don't realize that the very existence of capitalism was in doubt in the 1930s.  Far from being a radical, FDR was capitalism's savior, for all the thanks he got.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 08:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Agreed!
Far from being a radical, FDR was capitalism's savior, for all the thanks he got.
True, but the important point here isn't so much the thanks Roosevelt got, but the fact that liberals of the thirties through the sixties thought that the New Deal was a permanent feature of the landscape: an improvement on Robber Baron capitalism without veering off the cliff of Communist dictatorship.

Whereas Republicans and Wall Street considered the New Deal a temporary extortion of their power, to be reversed as soon as possible. Nobody on the left, the labor-liberals, the Old Left, the New Left saw that coming.

I'm pretty sure we're not disagreeing here.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 10:04AM | 0 recs
Eisenhower Said

In a letter to his brother, Edgar (and you thought all the good stuff had to do with Milton!):

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
So, it wasn't just an assumption of the left. It was a sober assessment of historical necessity.

That's why it's no accident that the folks trying to destroy it all have utter contempt for the reality-based community.  Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Eisenhower Said
Thanks for the quote. You're right that for a time, Republicans fell in line with Democratic logic. Ike was the prime example, and you can probably include Nixon too, at least partly.

But throughout the period, as the "Red Menace" receded as a threat, so too, did the necessity of keeping the New Deal, and so gradually the far rightists became more numerous and more confident. I'm not sure what the "reality-based community" has to do with it. These guys probably think it's reality that they can screw the working-class majority and get away with it. It is sort of true, at least for the short run. But I see your point, too. It's probably their Achilles' heel if the Democrats can figure out how to exploit it.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Eisenhower Said
Also, now that I've gone and read the whole letter, what's interesting to me is what Edgar must have said to get this response from President Eisenhower. You can easily imagine the Republicans struggling to break free from what they considered a straitjacket. There were probably more Edgars and HL Hunts than Ike thought here. But the time was not yet ripe for them.
by sTiVo 2007-01-01 11:19AM | 0 recs
Precisely!

There were more out there than Eisenhower thought, but they were still a pretty small minority.  The whole point of the Powell Memo, mentioned elsewhere, was organizing the power of a small minority to make it's views dominant in the political realm.

They could never succeed in convincing people to think like them, to share their values (or, rather, lack thereof), but they could--through relentless, multi-level propaganda--get people to see like them.  And so you have tens of millions of people who strongly support the idea of Social Security, for example.  But they've been snookered with all this phony crisis talk that's been promoted for the past 20, 30 years.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Precisely!
Good that you mention Social Security, the one bastion of the New Deal that has so far resisted encroachment. But these guys don't quit, and now it's being discussed again, with the connivance of some Democrats.
by sTiVo 2007-01-01 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Matt's right that institutionally the 1960s left failed."

Nope...that's dead nuts wrong.

The "60's left" was hugely successful...again...Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Miranda Rights, Environmental Protection, Head Start, Peace Corps.

It was a time of HUGE institutional build up...which is why even after 25 years of right wing Reaganaut attacks the right wingers are still fussing that they can't get around the civil rights bulwark built during the 60's and 70's.

And remember, the 60's left knew that pushing Civil Rights, breaking with the segregationist Democratic South, allowing Nixon's Southern Strategy, a Republican segregationist South, would cost them future elections...but it had to be done.

The rise of the Republican right wing in the 1980's was the price we paid for Civil Rights in the 60's and 70's.

It was not a failure by the 60's left but their crowning achievement, knowingly sacrificing power to set the US on the right course on civil rights and equal rights for the future.

by BrionLutz 2006-12-31 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
"Matt's right that institutionally the 1960s left failed." Nope...that's dead nuts wrong. ... And remember, the 60's left knew that pushing Civil Rights, breaking with the segregationist Democratic South, allowing Nixon's Southern Strategy, a Republican segregationist South, would cost them future elections...but it had to be done. The rise of the Republican right wing in the 1980's was the price we paid for Civil Rights in the 60's and 70's.
Have to disagree with you. The left knew no such thing, unless you want to count Lyndon Johnson as part of the left. Had the left understood the danger they might have avoided the really way-out extremism of late SDS-Weatherman and similar phenomena, and tried working on working-class issues, instead of buying into the inanity that the working class was "bought off by imperialism".
by sTiVo 2007-01-01 05:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Nobody, that I can recall, expected LBJ to win as massively as he in 1964.  The expectation he would need the help of the Left to win, and would then be politically beholden to us, was the reasoning behind the SDS "Part of the Way with LBJ" campaign.

As it turned out, LBJ won big-time, he didn't need the Left's support, and wasn't beholden.  This major strategic error went a long way, when LBJ escalated in Viet Nam, in discrediting the founding SDS leadership and a goodly chunk of their supporters.  This, in turn, was one of the factors that eventually led to the "way-out extremism" of the Weatherpeople.

sigh

I knew some of 'em.  Their hearts were in the right place.  Their brains, however, were out to lunch.  

by ATinNM 2007-01-01 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
sigh I knew some of 'em. Their hearts were in the right place. Their brains, however, were out to lunch.
Yes. Unfortunately.

Thanks for the 1964 SDS/Democratic Party history/strategy. Sounds like you're a few years older than me. I wasn't paying a lot of attention until a few years later.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 10:59AM | 0 recs
Hold On!

Back in 1964, Johnson hadn't escalated in Vietnam. So there was no cause for militant opposition to him.  "Part of the way with LBJ" made very good sense, because he was openly running the most progressive Democratic Party presidential campaign since FDR in 1936.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-01-01 01:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Hold On!

Being very carefull here.

Back in 1964, Johnson hadn't escalated in Vietnam. So there was no cause for militant opposition to him.

I agree, given what was known in 64.  

"Part of the way with LBJ" made very good sense, because he was openly running the most progressive Democratic Party presidential campaign since FDR in 1936.

And that is true as well.  But I think it was a major mistake to wed the nascent New Left so strongly with LBJ and the Democratic Party.  It is my understanding there was opposition at the time as well.  

What is missing is the feeling of betrayal, shock, and anger within SDS when Johnson (through McNamara) took the country into Viet Nam.  And SDS, its current, and former members simply was the New Left.

It is impossible to understand the New Left of the 60s without a deep understanding of the resistance¹: political, cultural, social, to Viet Nam and how quickly the 'mainstream' New Left position shifted in opposition to the War.   This happened so quickly that positions taken in 1964, such as the 'Part of the Way' campaign, were viewed with incredulity just two years later.  Viet Nam became THE issue of the New Left and everything else just dwindled away.

So by 67 'standards' people in 64 had been deluded and then co-opted.  

Within that context, plus the '64 leaders and members leaving or being pushed-out, the rise of the counter-culture, the lack of experienced Wiser Heads - whether anyone would have listened is, I admit, a good question - to turn to, and so on and so forth started a trajectory of suspicion of and emotive alienation to any and all American institutions.  Especially the Democratic Party.  Most especially that SOB LBJ.  

¹ Which you obviously do.  I'm trying to put it in perspective for other readers.

by ATinNM 2007-01-01 04:42PM | 0 recs
One thing I've wondered

And you sound like  you might know. How was it determined to the satisfaction of various people that Tonkin was a fraud? Did the SDS or the radicals suspect this from the outset? Was anyone unequivocally sure of it?  When and how did it become accepted by the general population?  Was(n't) this important for turning people against the war. After all, if you accepted Tonkin, the "new Pearl Harbor", at face value, Vietnam was defensible, no? Or did SDS reject war with Vietnam even in the face of supposed unprovoked attack?

by bento 2007-01-01 07:37PM | 0 recs
Can't Really Answer

Tonkin Gulf happened in '64 and I didn't come along until 3 years later.  By then it didn't matter or, rather, it was an syllogism of faith:

Anything from the Johnson Administration was a pack of lies.
The Tonkin Gulf Thingie was from the Johnson Administration.
Therefore, Tonkin Gulf was a pack of lies.

As far as "unprovoked attack" ...

If there are military forces in your country, shooting at you, how does "unprovoked" apply, exactly?  

by ATinNM 2007-01-02 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Can't Really Answer

As I understood how Tonkin was presented to the public, our forces were not shooting at them but only performing exercises and we were in disputed, not clearly their, waters. I'm not saying these things were true; I'm talking about how the war was justified. Just as the Iraq War would have been defensible (in my opinion) if there had been an immanent danger of Saddam nuking an American city, Vietnam seems defensible if you accepted the administration's claims at face value.

by bento 2007-01-02 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"The left knew no such thing, unless you want to count Lyndon Johnson as part of the left."

LBJ was a liberal left FDR New Dealer...the War on Poverty...he had huge visions of government social activism.  He passed the Civil Rights act the defining act of the 60's left which is the topic of this conversation.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-16 09:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Matt's right that institutionally the 1960s left failed."

Nope...that's dead nuts wrong.

The "60's left" was hugely successful...again...Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Miranda Rights, Environmental Protection, Head Start, Peace Corps.

It was a time of HUGE institutional build up...which is why even after 25 years of right wing Reaganaut attacks the right wingers are still fussing that they can't get around the civil rights bulwark built during the 60's and 70's.

I thought Matt meant institutional to mean institutions like the progresssive blogosphere. Institutional as in "institutional racism and sexism" is something else. You're right if he meant institutional to mean identity politics, environmentalism and human rights.

by nonwhiteperson 2007-01-16 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

But that's not what he meant.

by nonwhiteperson 2007-01-16 07:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"I thought Matt meant institutional to mean institutions like the progresssive blogosphere."

Which is not an institution like say the Environmental Protection Agency. The has been a huge institutional bulwark against the regressive right wing over the last 25 years.

That is what is meant by establishing an institutional bulwark.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-16 09:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt was talking about literal institutions like the progressive blogosphere/Web 2.0 which hopefully will become an institution. I agree with you that the 1960s were successful culturally but Matt already said that. He was talking about literal institutions such as financial, communications, etc. institutions.

by nonwhiteperson 2007-01-18 05:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Matt was talking about literal institutions like the progressive blogosphere/Web 2.0"

1. It's virtual,not literal.  Calling the amporphous blogosphere an "institution" is almost laughable.

2. It is a right wing as it is left wing.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-18 06:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I said that but you chose not to understand what I wrote:

"Matt's right that institutionally the 1960s left failed. It had to do with the assassinations, corporatization and Baby Boomers selling out to work for corporations to have the standard of living their parents gave them. DFH to me is not a person, it's idealism and it's possible to be institutionally and economically sound while maintaining our idealism.

My only fear is that Democrats will focus on institutional change and throw women, etc. under the bus."

by nonwhiteperson 2007-01-18 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"I said that but you chose not to understand what I wrote:"Matt's right that institutionally the 1960s left failed."

And he was utterly wrong since the 60's left produced huge institutional results, EPA, which is still giving the right wing fits, being just one example. Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act being others.

"My only fear is that Democrats will focus on institutional change and throw women, etc. under the bus."

How did Civil Rights Act throw "women etc" under the bus?  Voting Rights?  EPA? Affirmative Action?

by BrionLutz 2007-01-18 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Forget it. You don't understand anything.

Good luck in life without any semblance reading comprehension.

by nonwhiteperson 2007-01-18 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt, this post seems very astute to me. Thanks for giving us a forum to reassess those times in the distant past.

by Coral 2007-01-01 05:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt, I'm from the baby-boom generation but after reading your piece, this entire thread, and then rereading your piece, I think you're more right than wrong.  

But then I wasn't your typical DFH anyway.  I was of the wing that said (coming of age just as the sixties were ending) we've botched it by allowing ourselves to be a student-centered middle class movement and throwing away the previous working-class based politics that were majoritarian.

But that was a difficult road to travel on.  I tried, soldiering on in the labor movement for twenty years after the sixties were over.  I didn't see deindustrialization coming.

You're absolutely right about the post-scarcity assumption.  That was the root of it all, and it's no accident that our recent successes are due to moving back in the opposite direction.  The lifting of that assumption explains the relative decline of the DLC as an electoral force now.

On the other hand, if you're going to buy into the anti-radical assumptions of the time, it's also necessary to realize that without that previous generation's radicalism, the New Deal itself would never have happened.  When the "red menace" was defeated, the New Deal (which enabled it to be defeated) was revoked.  So I wouldn't be so quick to denounce the excesses.  Yes, there were excesses in the sixties, but allowing the commies into SDS was not the central flaw.  Not sure if you're saying that, but it sounds like you may be.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 05:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

It seems to me that part of the problem here is a reductive definition of what constitutes politics.   I think that's what this post is actually doing, which underlies the premise of where did the DFH's go to?  

In large measure, the New Left got concrete and specific.  Pete Seeger famously said, think globally, act locally.   So people went into activism like saving rivers.   Greenpeace is part of politics, as is the World Wildlife fund or the Sierra Club.    It went into a women's rights, gay rights and community activism-- creating a new urbanism.   Now, people do sneer at the incrementalism of it, but when someone creates a cafe and serves only fair trade coffee, they are acting politically in a progressive way.  If you start to look around you, I will think you will start to discover how much of this you are missing.    Fighting for bike paths (that's how Howard Dean got started in actual politics), trying to block a high rise building inappropriate to the neighborhood, all politics in the broader sense.  

Consider what author Richard Florida writes about in his book Creative Cities-- rebuilding community through tolerance, culture and a creative lifestyle.   One can say people who flock to these communities act for their own  benefit.   True.  But each such community is a focal point for political change-- they create a critical mass.  As  someone who was a county coordinator for Dean,  I know these creative cities were critical for the new grassroots organizing.  Find a creative city, find a meetup.  And, incidentally, the above poster is right that a hair shirt expectation of what it takes to do progressive politics burns people out after a time.   The right doesn't have a problem with people making money, so they don't begrudge someone getting paid a decent wage.  It's a big advantage they have over us.   It's wrong to fault people for wanting to have a comfortable life, and counterproductive.

Through these kinds of things people who came out of the sixties movements made enormous changes.  These changes underly formal politics and their importance cannot be understated.  Everyone quotes Tip O'Neil on how all politics is local, but it's a more subtle understanding than hauling pork back.   People who came out of the sixties movements made all these things happen.   This includes the Silicon Valley visionaries who realized the revolutionary potential of decentralized information processing.   I'm sorry, but GenX benefited from that, it did not make it happen, they were too young.

This  larger politics created an alternative base for progressive politics when the labor movement decided it was middle class, stopped fighting and got creamed by big business.    Nothing that has happened progressively in the last few years would have happened without it.  

by tea in the harbor 2007-01-01 06:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

There is one name in this long discussion that has been strangely missing.

Jimmy Carter.  

Carter's vacillation, conservatism, and toadying to corporate interests had much more to do with the right coming to power than the dirty fucking hippies. And practically every error he made was on the side of conservatism. And even when he didn't toady to corporate interests he supported the stupidest, most impolitic and least libertarian forms of liberalism like cars that wouldn't start unless you fastened your seat belt and the 55 mph speed limit. I support cradle-to-grave welfare, but this sort of paternalistic nanny-state regulation from people whose brains had been damaged by too much DC swamp gas had far more to do with electing Reagan than  flag burning or the pathetic SDS "Days of Rage."

Carter dealt with the second biggest US economic crisis of the century unimaginatively and ineffectively, and even practically insured Reagan's reelection by appointing the fiscally conservative Paul Volker to the Fed to administer shock therapy just before the 1980 election. Carter, not Reagan, brought in monetarism and killed his own chances for reelection in the process.

Carter also bowed to pressure from Rockefeller and Kissinger to admit the Shah to the US, and then pathetically failed to deal with the consequent  hostage crisis. It's hard to imagine, say Eisenhower or Kennedy temporizing and then showing such military incompetence.  I suspect that an Ike (as in Korea) would have threatened effective military action against Teheran and the hostages would have been released faster than you can say Ahmadinejad.

It shows that DLC type Democrats because of their moderation can potentially damage the reputation of the Democratic Party as much or more tham McGovern did. What made FDR great was his willingness to try radical experiments, keep the ones that worked and throw out the ones that didn't, whether they came from Communist sympathizers or Yellow Dogs.

The Carter-Reagan election also shows how our undemocratic electoral system helped construct the meme of a new conservative hegemony.  In 1980 Reagan won 90.9% of the electoral vote with only 50.7% of the popular vote. (Carter got 41% and Anderson, a liberal Republican got 6.7%).  

by TomSkidmore 2007-01-01 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Carter
You're personalizing it too much. There were problems with Carter but most of these same problems could be laid at the feet of Clinton too, in other words, at the feet of every successful Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

In a word, money controls politics. There's a reason why vacillating centrists are the only Demorcats who've managed to be elected President since the sixties.

Money controls the media and through it, controls politics. Republicans get to play an easy game. Both Democrats and Republicans need money to play the game but Republicans have a lock on the people with a lot of money and control of the media.

This enables them to start with a solid base and add to it. Democrats also need money but need to appeal to people without money, or at least without a lot of money. They survive by trying to appeal to a lot of people with a little money. Net roots and all. It works sometimes, but never for those thought to be too antiestablishment by the money power. The Democrats are inherently a house divided, and the sooner we understand and face that fact, the better off we'll be.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 06:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Carter's vacillation, conservatism, and toadying to corporate interests had much more to do with the right coming to power than the dirty fucking hippies."

Nope.

History has proven Carter right on every issue.  That the American public chose the easy lies of Reagan over Carter's hard truths was not Carter's fault.

Carter took on the Vietnam era inflation that Nixon and Ford ("Whip Inflation Now") could not fix by appointing Paul Volker to the FED and being willing to take the political heat of the monetary recession to stop inflation.

Carter moved US foreign policy to one based on human rights and morality vs. realpolitik.  No longer supporting oppressive dictators like the Shah. He paid a huge price for that in Iran.

Carter kept the US economy on track, lowering Debt/GDP to the lowest level in the post WWII era.

Carter expanded Nixon and Ford's energy independence policies and US oil consumption continued to decline.

It goes on.  

No political movement lasts forever but the 60's left carried on and expanded on the FDR liberal policies and kept it going for 20 years...not a bad run and they accomplished a lot.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

I don't dislike Jimmy Carter personally, and he was certainly not the only actor on the stage, but I think that because of his poor performance as president he bears more responsibility for conservative ascendancy than the DFHs or McGovern.

It's hard to argue that a presidential incumbent who can only muster 41% of the vote for reelection is not a political disaster.  Carter's failure to protect the interests of American workers in a profound economic crisis had more to do with the shift of Reagan Democrats than DFHs or any cultural conflict.

Economic cause and effect is difficult to assess and it's far from clear that Volker's policies and Carter's deficit reduction, which ultimately caused the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression helped curb inflation as much as lowered oil prices, because high oil prices, not an excess of money, were the cause of the inflation.  

The tight money policy probably just aggravated unemployment. And Carter's economic policies probably accelerated de-industrialization. Judith Stein's study of the US steel industry, Running Steel, Running America argues convincingly that foreign policy concerns have consistently led American presidents to sacrifice the interests of American workers and that Carter was one of the worst offenders in this respect.

It's arguable that the way the human rights policy, commendable in the abstract, was implemented in Iran gave us the worst of both worlds--the reputation for supporting an unjust repressive regime that couldn't feed its own people, despite vast oil wealth, while we weakened the ability of the regime to repress the people we had made our common enemies through Carter's continued support for the regime.

Of course you don't argue that the hostage crisis was a political success for President Carter. Wasn't it Carter's handling of the hostage crisis, more than anything the Left did, that made the Democrats look incompetent to handle foreign policy?
 

by TomSkidmore 2007-01-01 08:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"I don't dislike Jimmy Carter personally, and he was certainly not the only actor on the stage, but I think that because of his poor performance as president he bears more responsibility for conservative ascendancy than the DFHs or McGovern."

But Carter's performance on every major issue (inflation, deficit/debt, human rights, energy/oil, Iraq, Iran) as judged by history was right.

The fault dear Brutus was in our votes, not our Carter.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 08:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
But Carter's performance on every major issue (inflation, deficit/debt, human rights, energy/oil, Iraq, Iran) as judged by history was right.
I'll give you the last four items, but as for the first two, I suspect the "history" you're using as a yardstick is that of the DLC. These items convinced many Democrats that there was not enough daylight between them and the Republicans on economic issues for them to stay with the party.

A president who willingly gives his base vote to the opposition party, cannot be judged successful. When LBJ did so in 1964, at least there was an important democratic principle at stake. Not so with Carter. And Wall Street offered him zero for his gifts to them.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"I'll give you the last four items, but as for the first two [Iraq, Iran], I suspect the "history" you're using as a yardstick is that of the DLC."

Huh...what does DLC have to do with Iraq and Iran policy of Carter?

Carter put human rights first which put him at odds with Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Pahlevi in Iran.

Two correct and gutsy calls compared to Reagan sucking up to Saddam and causing the disaster of Iraq War I and Iraq War II not to mention the total moral failure of US allying with Saddam.

Putting human rights ahead of what's good for multinational oil companies is about as "progressive" as it gets in foreign policy.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
Oh, please. You are blatantly distorting my remarks, to what end I won't even venture to guess.

You said

But Carter's performance on every major issue (inflation, deficit/debt, human rights, energy/oil, Iraq, Iran) as judged by history was right.

I said:
I'll give you the last four items, but as for the first two, I suspect the "history" you're using as a yardstick is that of the DLC.
You then misquoted me. Your additions in bold:
"I'll give you the last four items, but as for the first two [Iraq, Iran]

Obviously the "first two" means not "Iran, Iraq" on which I agreed that Carter's positions were right but "inflation, deficit/debt".

Why don't you comment on what I said, rather than on the words you put in my mouth?

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Obviously the "first two" means not "Iran, Iraq" on which I agreed that Carter's positions were right but "inflation, deficit/debt"."

Ah...sorry about that.

But Carter was still right on the economic issues.  As for inflation and deficit/debt being "DLC issues", that still doesn't fly.

Inflation robs the poor and working people more than the wealthy who have the financial and economic tools to insulate themselves.

Deficit/debt also. Remember that the stealth reason for Reagan/Stockman cutting taxes and exploding the deficit/debt was to force Congress to cut the social programs such as Social Security, education, healthcare, welfare etc.

They were using deficit/debt to attack the social progams put in place by...ta da...the "60's left".

So whoever is lowering deficit/debt is keeping those programs safe.

That's why Clinton was the right wing's worst fiscal nightmare because he totally exploded their ideology by having Federal surpluses and lowering Debt/GDP.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
OK, that's better, but we disagree.

Democrats now have a choice between maximal deficit reduction and doing necessary things such as National Health care. I was encouraged by John Edwards' remarks yesterday that he was in favor of a slower deficit reduction (but no increase) in order to fund these programs. He shows me that he understands the choice here, better than Carter did, and he's not afraid to state it. Carter let himself be hemmed in by corporate/Wall Street logic and it hurt him.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"Democrats now have a choice between maximal deficit reduction and doing necessary things such as National Health care."

No...it's not a choice...they must do both.  

US can't survive carrying a health care system that sucks up 16% of our GDP vs.8% for our competitors.

US can't survive with ever increasing Debt/GDP burden, 33% in 1980 under Carter to 70% (2008 projection) under Bush Jr.  Close to 10% of our Federal budget is just paying interest on the debt.

Debt/GDP declined steadily from WWII to 1980.  In regards to this discussion, the "60's left" that ruled from 1960-80, did its part, keeping Debt/GDP declining.

Clinton did it and Americans benefited from it.

And we need to do that again starting in 2008.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
You're not making the choice, you're avoiding it. If you're saying they must do MAXIMAL deficit reduction and fund new programs you're arguing a self-contradictory position.

Something's gotta give somewhere.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"If you're saying they must do MAXIMAL deficit reduction and fund new programs you're arguing a self-contradictory position."

Clinton proved you and the right wing Republicans, who make the same claim, to be totally wrong.

Clinton budgets provided for surpluses and increases in US spending.

Remember that paying just the interest on the Reagan/BushSr/BushJr debt takes 10% of current US budget.

That's 10% that could be spent on science, education, health care, environment, space etc.

Eliminate the debt and we can spend more on good government programs.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 03:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
Do you know the meaning of "maximal"?
by sTiVo 2007-01-02 02:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

The ultimate and probably intended result of Volcker was to replace consumer inflation with asset inflation. That happened under Reagan and is the biggest underlying cause of  the increasing inequality we have been seeing ever since. Carter made the same mistake with Volcker that Clinton did with Freah; he trusted a Republican.

I also think oil prices were the biggest factor, and what kept them down in the 80's was largely the Iran/Iraq war in which we were helping both sides. That War started under Carter, but only just, so it's impossible to know whether Carter would have handled it like Reagan (he might've; he might've let it be Zbig's call), but that's the choice that was made.

It was under Carter that the cold war was renewed. Zbig has acknowledged that the Soviet claim that the US precipitated the overthrow of the secular Afghan government to draw the SU in their own Vietnam was correct.

It's true that Carter recognized the importance of energy independence. In large part, the last several years have consisted of popular culture being forced to relearn things it knew in the late 70's, but allowed itself to forget because of the Reaganite fantasy.

I also think that a large part of conservative resentment of liberalism is resentment of overbearing regulation, and I agree with them on this point.

by bento 2007-01-01 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"The ultimate and probably intended result of Volcker was to replace consumer inflation with asset inflation."

That's a economically meaningless statement. It is the value of goods (including "assets") and services that determines the inflation rate.

The money is the currency by which all are valued...that's what money is.

It was Volcker, not Reagan, who reigned in inflation. Volcker was Carter's appointee and Carter knew exactly what Volcker was going to do and the price he, Carter, would pay for doing what had to be done.

Another gutsy call by Carter.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

It was a gusty and necessary call.  Carter's failure was his inability to communicate why it was gutsy and necessary.  

The same sort of gutsy and necessary calls are going to have to be made over the next 2 years if this countries economy is going to start to heal from the looting of the Bush administration -- and its allies and masters.  Pelosi, et. al., have to, day after day, get out there and tell the public why these calls are necessary.  

by ATinNM 2007-01-01 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Is it "gutsy" for a Republican Fed chairman to destroy a Democratic presidency, and the labor movement that provides so much of the basis of the Democratic party, only to hand the resulting bounceback to the Republican successor. It was a foolish call by Carter. If Wall Street wants the public to feel pain to bail them out, let it happen on the watch of one of members of the party associated with Wall Street - Wall Street should not get the benefit both of the pain and the reaction against it, and we're seen this again. Burns opened the floodgates for Nixon, and made Carter trim the sails. Volcker trimmed the sails to the point of becalming. Then opened the gates for Reagan. Greenspan let Reagan and Bush spend like made, solemnly preached retraint on Clinton, and then let junior run free. How many times are we going to fall for this? I go into a little more detail in my comment above.

by bento 2007-01-01 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

What Volcker lowered was CPI, which is called the consumer price index specifically because it measures consumer - good - and not asset - investment - inflation. When stocks go up, even in P/E terms, it is not reflected in CPI, though it is "rising prices" and "less that money can buy" by any standard. Likewise, commodities. Likewise, bonds. Likewise, investment real estate. Back in the day, owned primary residences were included, since these are "goods". Now, however, the government has concluded that these too are assets - investments - for many people, and accordingly they are no longer counted in CPI, rather their rental equivalents are.

What Volcker did is examined thoroughly, technically, and to devastating effect in William Grieder's book, Secrets of the Temple. First of all, Carter chose Volcker because, in the wake of the Lance scandal, he needed someone who would not be a problem to confirm, and Wall Street was hammering him to bring back the old Nixonian who killed Bretton Woods.

Most of the inflation of the late Carter term was due to oil prices, as Carter himself said. About this, all Volcker could do was reduce demand by crushing the economy, but since demand for oil is highly inelastic, this is to little effect. What killed this aspect of inflation was the Iran/Iraq war, which destroyed the effectiveness of OPEC. With the 2 and 3 producers at war and needing to produce as much as possible to finance it, curtailing supply was a thing of the past. Volcker had nothing to do with this, although possibly Reagan's policy of arming both sides prolonged and worsened the war.

The rest of the inflation - what was present in the 70's even aside from the oil shocks - was chiefly wage-push inflation, exacerbated by the loose money policies Burns ran in 72 to re-elect Nixon. Wage-push inflation means both wages and prices are going up, roughly in tandem. Still not the best thing in itself. It hurts those on fixed nominal incomes, though most of those became indexed in the 70's. It makes long-run business planning harder, but this is more  the uncertainty of the inflation, than the inflation itself. Psychologically, it has an exaggerated effect, as people feel their pay increases are raises not inflation, hence they complain about their raises being "eaten by inflation", when their raises are largely inflation. Chiefly, though, inflation helps debtors and hurts creditors.

What Volcker did was slam the brakes on the economy,  breaking  the back of the labor movement, and initiating the decline in real wages. By creating the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, Volcker created an enormous conflict between unionized workers who were still fairly well-off and the vast number of unemployed who would gladly take their jobs at lesser terms. The labor movement has never recovered, and Carter did participate in this by breaking the trucker's strike.

After a few years, consumer prices went down to reflect the decreased purchasing power of the population. Reagan began running huge deficits, coupled with tax policies than favored investment and disfavored labor. The result is that the economic stimulus, as intended, went into investment, i.e., assets, and these experienced the inflation, rather than the consumer goods.

Was all this necessary and good? There has been enormous propaganda from the Reagan era on to think so. And the mid-Reagan era did provide a better standard of living than Carter, but it did so by running debt. Carter actually decreased the deficit, contrary to Repub urban legend. But living better on debt is not hard.

It is, of course, impossible to say whether things would be better or worse now if a more accomodationist Fed policy were pursued, and the inflation left to naturally fall to heel by the downfall of OPEC. Probably, inflation would not have fallen so far, but the  distribution of wealth would be much less skewed. Keynesianism had the longest run of improving average living standards of any economic approach, and it was Volcker who killed it. It's true that Keynesianism was not prepared for oil shocks, but  neither was any other economic orthodoxy. At the very least, I think that the transition to something  beyond Keynesianism could have been accomplished with less misery and much less loss of wealth to the average person. But those were not Volcker's objectives.

by bento 2007-01-01 07:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"What Volcker lowered was CPI, which is called the consumer price index specifically because it measures consumer - good - and not asset - investment - inflation."

Glad you realized that Volcker's monetary policy at Fed is what finally killed the Vietnam hangover inflation.

"Asset inflation" as you define it, stock prices going up, is never considered "inflation" since it is a speculative investment and in many cases has no relationship to actual "assets". One only need look at the recent mega-billion dollar hedge fund collapses to understand this.

So the "60's left's" parting achievement was to take care of the inflation left over from their worst mistake, the Vietnam War.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-03 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

This is a super point and I am sorry I missed it above.  Carter did real, lasting damage to our country by legitimizing the anti-government, anti-washington rhetoric first used by George Wallace and then co-opted and cleaned up only a little bit by Richard Nixon.  It's easy to sentimentalize him now, and I do agree he is the greatest ex-President, but Carter ran against his own party and its achievements by running against Washington.  Equally bad, he also legitimized religion in politics.  No leader before him ever talked about religion the way Carter did.  He made fundamentalist Christianity socially acceptable in a way it had not been and drew religion into politics.  It could be argued he did more damage in that way than eight years of Ronald Reagan.  

People tend to forget how powerful, even invincible, the Democratic Party was on the local, state and congressional level in the 70s.   With Carter Democrats began a long fealty to a southern strategy that never worked and took the party to the right.    It was only when Joe Trippi had the guts and imagination during the Dean campaign to say a Democratic presidential candidate could easily win without the south, that the Democratic Party really began to come back around.   The success of the 50 State Strategy and our congressional gains last year really are the repudiation of the long legacy of the Carter years.

by tea in the harbor 2007-01-01 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
It was only when Joe Trippi had the guts and imagination during the Dean campaign to say a Democratic presidential candidate could easily win without the south, that the Democratic Party really began to come back around. The success of the 50 State Strategy and our congressional gains last year really are the repudiation of the long legacy of the Carter years.
Umm, aren't the Fifty state strategy and Howard Dean's famous comments about winning back the southern guys in pickups with rifles and Confederate flag decals themselves a contradiction of the idea that a Democrat could win without the South?

Now, if what you really mean is that Democrats can compete in the South without surrendering on every social issue, then we're in agreement. But pulling off that move must entail reducing the reliance upon corporate money that also characterized Democrats in the Carter-to-Clinton years.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 08:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Yes, they can compete, and need to because the right wing cannot be given a safe haven anywhere.  But the idea of a southern strategy meant that every idea had to be tested against how it would fly in Dixie, which turned the Democratic message into mush-- constant pandering, and certain kinds of leaders were crossed off as possibilities before they even started.   It's rather zen-like.  In order to get the South, or any other region or constituency, for that matter, you have to be able to demonstrate you're willing to go without it in the interest of justice and the entire country.   You follow, that way, you don't lead.  On top of that, of course, I indeed agree, was the corrosive effect of TV money on politics across the spectrum.  

by tea in the harbor 2007-01-01 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"You have to trace the development of the Civil Rights & Voting Rights acts back.."

No you don't...anymore than you have to trace slavery back to understand why Lincoln did the "heavy lift" on slavery in the US.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 took the assassination of JFK and the break between the Democratic Party and the segregationist South and the resulting loss of power.

It was huge, arguably the greatest shift in US politically and socially since the Civil War.

It was the "heavy lift" of the 1960's, the jewel in the crown of the achievements of the "60's left".

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 06:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Couple of examples that don't exactly fit the emerging periodization here.  One needs to explain the 1990 election of Paul Wellstone based on a very underfunded grass-roots effort that not only captured the nomination by the Party Process, but successfully managed the election.  In Paul's case it was based on seriously knitting together over 20 years the progressive organizations that emerged from the 60's (Civil Rights, Human Rights in the Carter sense, Environmental matters, Labor Union issues, Feminist groups, Welfare Rights organizations -- and much else, and bringing them into the DFL party where they learned to build cross issue coalitions.  Tom Harkin's base in Iowa is quite similar, and he was elected in the early 80's, and Russ Feingold (a very close friend of Wellstone's) was elected in 1992 grounded in a very similar coalition effort.  These three built their base on the issues that emerged in the 1960's, and they succeeded when the Right was ascendent.  I could add others to these three -- Bernie Sanders in Vermont for instance.  

The common thread of this set of negative cases to the general thesis, is that they either took leadership and power in the existing political party -- and used it to create a cross issue participatory process -- or in the case of Sanders, built his own.  Essentially it was 60's culture somewhat modified and always open to expanding the coalitions.  In many ways the things that Howard Dean is doing today are follow on's and an expansion of this model, which compared to the 60's is indeed far more appreciative of institutional frameworks.  

One needs to appreciate one reason why many in 60's movements were adverse to institution building.  The Old Left of the 1930's was very institution minded, and by the 60's, many of these were "the opposition" or perhaps the most reactionary parts of society.  The face of Labor was George Meany and perhaps for a time Jimmy Hoffa -- the voice of progressive labor was Walter Reuther who had been effectively sidelined after the 1950's merger of AFL and CIO.  The New Left had the same basic problem with what remained of old left political culture.  One needs to read Irving Howe's late 50's and early 1960's attacks on the emerging progressive efforts -- I would suggest a good long library session with Dissent Magazine where much of the debate was published.  This debate left many of the leaders of the New Left Institutional adverse.  

I would suggest taking a really good look at the underlying causes of the 1968 disruptions at the Chicago Democratic Convention.  Much of the party was essentially a private club run by power brokers such as Mayor Daley, and both the Kennedy and McCarthy campaigns were about changing the power system.  And in fact that awful 68 convention did agree to change -- it appointed the McGovern Commission, later the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which vastly limited the reach of the old time power brokers, and created the rules for much broader participation.  It was not the public leaders of the New Left that led this, but it was very much progressives who had absorbed the ideas of the New Left.    

by Sara 2007-01-01 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
Another example - the Harold Washington mayoral campaigns in Chicago in the eighties. Whatever else they were (a Black political awakening), they were in part "Old Home Week" for the sixties era left.
by sTiVo 2007-01-01 08:21AM | 0 recs
Good Point

One thing I think needs to be said is that the only reason we can seriously discuss anyone but Hillary realistically winning the Dem nomination in 08 is because of reforms to the nominating process made in reaction to the 68 riots. Humphrey got the nomination without winning a single primary! That's how old boy the system was before the DFH's.

by bento 2007-01-01 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"The left knew no such thing [that passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would cost the Democrats the South]

Everybody knew it.  From Nixon to LBJ. The threats to go Republican were made quite openly by the Southern segregationists.  Thurmond for one who joined the Republicans to make that very point. The loss of the South and electoral power was the price for the Civil Rights of the 60's and 70's. One of the gutsiest and moral political acts in US history.

"...unless you want to count Lyndon Johnson as part of the left"

LBJ was an FDR, New Deal liberal way to the left of most of the Democratic Party today.  His "Great Society" programs were the most ambitious social reforms in US since the New Deal.  Civil Rights being the key...LBJ got it done.  Most of the accomplishments of the "60's left" were sheparded to success by LBJ.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 07:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
Okay, if you want to count LBJ as part of the left, that is not totally without merit, in view of the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty, the Great Society.

But the fact is there was this other group, call them the "New Left" if you like, but really broader than that, that during the period in question had no use at all for LBJ.

"Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today!" became their cry.

And I think it indisputable that THIS left had no idea that passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would cost the Democrats the South. Nor, in the late sixties, I suppose, did they care. They had moved far beyond that, or at least they thought they had.

It is this left that in some sense failed, that relied on post-scarcity assumptions that weren't true. But so, too, the failure can be partially laid at the feet of the New Deal liberals, who also had a role in allowing the great split of the sixties to take place.

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

We all would benefit from a 1960's Timeline.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act "Intentionally" did not deal with Voting Rights.  The bill finally passed in July of 64, and the presidential election was just a few months away.  Johnson was set for a blowout with only one little cloud in the sky, and that was called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that demanded recognition as the Democratic Party of Mississippi, and seats for its delegation at the convention.  Remember Fanny Lou Hammer?  

Post Election, Johnson had huge congressional majorities, won over 60% of the vote, a real mandate, and once Selma heated up, he used his political capital to go sing "We Shall Overcome" in Congress and get the Voting Rights Act passed. He had the choice of doing that or having hundreds of Selmas.  

Then came Watts.  And then Detroit and Newark and hundreds of smaller events called Urban Riots.  Virtually all of them were about Police Abuse or other acts of oppression in Urban and non-Southern locations.  None of the acts of Congress or the good will of Johnson had any impact on this underside of racist institutions.  But as a follow-on to the Voting Rights Act it illustrated the vast complexity of all that needed to change, and how much more difficult it would be compared with the recent legislative battles.  This realization occured at the same time Vietnam became an issue and the anti-Vietnam protests seriously began.  White Liberal support for Civil Rights activity began to diminish as all the facets of the Anti-War movement emerged -- and it wasn't all about demonstrations.  The 1966 mid-term elections reduced Johnson's congressional strength, and subsequently White Liberals tended to focus on War Policy looking ahead toward 68, and Civil Rights efforts more narrowly focused on local community organization.  Of course efforts were made to patch up the two wings -- one has to study in detail King's decision to take leadership in anti-War activity as expressed in the 1967 Riverside Church speech...but it never really happened, though it did result in the Neo-Con's leaving the Democratic Socialists and the left and making their way toward Republicanism.  Are these things a reaction to Voting Rights?  No, not directly, but they all happened in a very short period, and in the same political environment.  Old Coalitions broke into pieces, new and seemingly unlikely ones were created, and many of these failed.  The generation who were born in the late depression and did Grade School during World War II, entered college in the late 1950's, and who were founders of the early 1960's movements, finished school and moved off into jobs and family life -- and a new post war generation came on the scene with quite different life experiences.  Political Interests changed as a result.  

I see little thought given here to the Cold War Framework in which much of this all transpired.  There are now some excellent histories (Mary L. Dudziak's "Cold War, Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy" and Thomas Bostelmann's "The Cold War and the Color Line") that posit a direct connection between the success of the Civil Rights Movement and American Foreign Policy Interests.  Yep, Department of State as prime cheerleader for the movement's success.  Essentially in the post Colonial Black and Brown world where the competition between the Soviets and the US played out, the old Jim Crow system was antithetical to US Interests, and successful, non-violent change was a huge plus.  Then if you read the Mitrokhin Archives -- the KGB files that somehow got delivered to the Brits after 1991, you find huge evidence the Soviets were trying to make Civil Rights efforts fail -- given Soviet interests in the Black and Brown post Colonial World.  Put simply, you have to account for the Cold War -- overt and covert.  

by Sara 2007-01-02 12:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

"But the fact is there was this other group, call them the "New Left" if you like, but really broader than that, that during the period in question had no use at all for LBJ."

That the left had many fractious parts is not new...check out the disagreements here in the "New Left".

The "60's left" included LBJ. He was to the left of JFK. The bottomline is the liberals of 60's put together a heck of run from 1960 until 1980.

They fought and won the 2nd US Civil War.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-01 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
The "60's left" included LBJ. He was to the left of JFK. The bottomline is the liberals of 60's put together a heck of run from 1960 until 1980.

They fought and won the 2nd US Civil War.

I don't disagree with any of that. But I do insist that this is also true:
"The left knew no such thing [that passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would cost the Democrats the South.
Parts of the Left (under a definition that includes LBJ, which is not a universally accepted definintion), may have understood the consequences of the Civil Rights Act. But many others (and I'll include myself here) were not so farseeing.

Argue, if you like, that LBJ should be considered of the left. I don't entirely disagree. But you can't reasonably argue that because he knew something, the left as a whole knew it. Unless you mean to EXCLUDE the "new Left" from your definition of the "left".

by sTiVo 2007-01-01 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Left and Right are deceptive terms --- as if there are only two ways to be.

Yes, there are usually two sides in any given time period, with one of those sides capturing the spirit of the time, and the other side...failing.

But the content of what people understood to be on the left were fighting for in the 1960s and what people understood to be on the left in the 2010s will fight for ---- well, these aren't the same things at all.

by catherineD 2007-01-01 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt, this is a great post that I think is mostly true -- with the comments filling in much of the detail and correcting most of what is not quite true.

By the end of the 60s decade, there were many activists believing that a revolution was just around the corner. When I arrived at college in 1972, I encountered SDS people walking around in a daze wondering how Nixon could have been re-elected and the revolution had not materialized. Having come from a small city in Texas, I was not surprised, but those living in college ghettoes had lost touch with the reality of our country.

The frenzied fantasies of that period passed and many of us then began to figure out how to take the next step. But we were faced with a very large backlash, massive right-wing funding, and the reality that the corporate right controls massive institutions (corporations, media, think tanks, many churches, many unions, etc.) and we had very little to work with. This has been the case for at least a hundred years and makes it difficult to accomplish anything. I think we do a fantastic job given our limitations, but we also need to learn from our mistakes.

Thanks for laying out some of those mistakes and proposing a way forward.

by RandomNonviolence 2007-01-01 10:58AM | 0 recs
Seems like a modest point, but really key

I arrived at college in 1973, a year behind you. It is really hard for people even one year after me to understand the importance of what you said:

By the end of the 60s decade, there were many activists believing that a revolution was just around the corner. When I arrived at college in 1972, I encountered SDS people walking around in a daze wondering how Nixon could have been re-elected and the revolution had not materialized. Having come from a small city in Texas, I was not surprised, but those living in college ghettoes had lost touch with the reality of our country.

Perhaps even Nixon thought the revolution was coming when he looked out the window and called out the National Guard during the big demonstrations in Washington, DC.

But, the other half of your comment was left unsaid: The 1960s New Left may have operated within a narrow generational and cultural ghetto, but todays activists are not nearly so isolated. I liked the earlier comment about the wave subsiding back into society. Now, we are active within a much more authentic and broader base.

The famous Pew Typology study from 2005 showed a huge increase in self-identified "liberals", doubling from 9% to 18% in the previous decade. As a category within the Democratic Party, this is over 50% of the Party base in just about all the Blue States. Even in Red states, liberal Dems are strongly represented.

by MetaData 2007-01-01 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Recent '60's novels to check out
by Don Hazen,
Robert Greenwald alerted me to the lively discussion about the '60s underway. Needless to say, it is the morning of New Year's day 2007, so my brain isn't ready for too much, and I'm just digesting Matt's take, and the responses.  To break the ice, I want to recommend two brilliant recent novels I enjoyed very much  about the '60s and more:  The Company You Keep, by Neil Gordon, (Penguin Paper)  and, Eat the Document, by Dana Spiotta ( Scribner, just out in paper)  These are exciting great reads as novels,and  incredibly insightful as well, in my opinion.
Last March I wrote this basic cheerleading piece, which received a 150 or so comments, some of  which were intelligent ;-)
Bring the Sixties Out of the Closet
By Don Hazen, AlterNet
Posted on March 23, 2006, Printed on January 1, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/story/33896/

I started the article with this quote:
Late into Dana Spiotta's brilliant new novel, "Eat the Document," the protagonist, a woman who has lived "underground" for years, hiding from the consequences of a 1960s political protest gone badly awry, flashes back to the moment of choice:
"The question is, do we want to leave action to the brutes of the world? ... There are some inherent problems built into acting. It lacks perfection. But I believe we must fight back, or we will feel shame all our lives. We, the privileged, are more obligated. It is a moral duty to do something, however imperfect. ... If we don't do something, all our lives we will feel regret."

by Don Hazen 2007-01-01 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Matt - I think this is important work you are doing, and speaking as a former 60's activist who left community organizing to pursue a traditional professional career, I think your points are mostly well taken.

I have always thought that part of the reason for the New Left's failure was a lack of cross-generational mentoring and institutional memory, due to the decapitation of the 1930's era Old Left in the McCarthy era.

Now we are in analagous situation, with younger progressives unable to learn much from their predecessors, because the 60's New Left did not build lasting institutions. On the other hand, you do have the successful example of the New Right, and seem to be learning a lot by analogy. And, as you yourself point out, you are being joined by a number of former 60's activists, who can add the perspective of their experience.

This time, we need to build lasting, self-sustaining institutions to support progressive policies.

by Dr K 2007-01-01 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

This analysis is awesome. But please don't forget the assassinations of the 1960's. Some of the most important of The Left's leaders were killed. The Right did not have that problem.

The King and RFK assassinations left some true believers so despondent that they disappeared from politics.

The assassinations of the 1960's have not been part of any historical or cultural analysis. They are usually simply, sadly mocked.

Nixon's Presidency is one result.

by jmderosa 2007-01-01 08:11PM | 0 recs
entire social and political structure was invo
  1. The heavy lifting was being done all through the fifties and sixties by the Warren Court. Almost every Monday a new case was decided which established the mechanisms for a nationally vital democratic conversation.  What always amazed me was that the class-war left ignored the impact of those cases and of a political system that was in fact exploring the lessons of the German experience of the 30's and 40's.  That was the source of all the public support for the civil rights movement.
  2. I do not want to take away the impact of the class-war left.  They were on the line with leaders ready and willing to disrupt the system in ways that said this thing we are doing wrong is more important than you're getting to work in the morning (hence the traffic jam actions on the FDR drive) but street action was not alone. I see I will have to write of my own on this.
by ruthhmiller 2007-01-17 06:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

by ruthhmiller 2007-01-17 06:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

What I sort of hope we can do is acknowledge that the left of the 1960s failed in some very serious ways, and move forward from there in not repeating those mistakes.

I think much of this discussion is ridiculous. But just for the sake of argument, what exactly are the mistakes we shouldn't repeat?

Because I've read on other threads that being intellectual is one of them. And I don't buy it or alot of the other assumed "failures". Please enlighten me.

by Planet B 2007-01-17 10:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Question: Has anyone ever articulated cultural/political values from the 60s which have not only lasted, but eveolved, matured, and thrived? Sure, we won the culture wars, but some of us have gotten elected and we know from experience that Americans are really hungry for an alternative vision, and that the skittish "moderates" in the Democratic Party lose in part because they lack political verterbrae. Environmental consciouslness, anti-imperialism, redefining national security: yep, that's us from the 60s. Stay tuned.

by Burt Cohen 2007-01-30 04:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left

Question: Has anyone ever articulated cultural/political values from the 60s which have not only lasted, but eveolved, matured, and thrived? Sure, we won the culture wars, but some of us have gotten elected and we know from experience that Americans are really hungry for an alternative vision, and that the skittish "moderates" in the Democratic Party lose in part because they lack political verterbrae. Environmental consciouslness, anti-imperialism, redefining national security: yep, that's us from the 60s. Stay tuned.

by Burt Cohen 2007-01-30 04:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Moving Away from the 1960s Left
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