Within the past year, all the news media–not only the little magazines and journals of opinion, but even the mass magazines and radio-and-television, have devoted a great deal of attention to the phenomenon of the New Left. And deservedly so, for here indeed is a truly new force in American life. Still basically a student movement, but now beginning to bring its new outlook to other groups in the community, the New Left may be said to have emerged with the forma- tion of SNCC (the Student Non-Violent coordinating Committee) in 1960, grown toitspresentformwith the creation of SDS (the Students for a Democratic Society) in 1962, and burst into national consciousness and to critical importance in American political life with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of late 1964 and the anti-Vietnam war March on Washington of April 17, 1965, led by SDS and aided by M-2-M (the May 2nd Movement). The New Left has accomplished far more, but these are the milestones of its growth. And even though the real upsurge of the New Left may be dated only from the summer and fall of 1964, it has already displaced the Old Left on the ideological spectrum; what is more, it has also clearly taken the place of the briefly-touted Conservative youth groups (YAF and ISI) as the Wave of the Future on campus.
As Harry Elmer Barnes has stressed, we all tend to suffer from a “cultural lag” in our assessment of social institutions; and so few people have grasped the vastness of the gulf between the Old Left and the New, a gulf not simply of esthetics or generational attitudes; and a gulf that has caused enormous bitterness and a hurling of maledictions from the ranks of the Old. The Left has changed greatly, and it is incumbent upon everyone interested in ideology to understand the change. The present article analyzes the numerous and significant ways in which the change marks a striking and splendid infusion of libertarianism into the ranks of the Left.
Old and New Left
A good way of gauging any change is to consider what had existed before. The Old Left, flourishing in the United States in the 1930′s and 40′s. may best be summed up as Social Democracy: a Social Democracy permeating all groups from the “liberals’ and “official’ Social Democrats on the right to the Browderites on the left. Essentially what this means is an accommodation to and admiration for the State, and a willingness to settle down in cozy alliance with Big Business and other power groups to parcel out perquisites and privileges in the mixed economy of welfare-warfare State Monopoly Capitalism. It is commonly asserted that Fabianism and Leninism differ only in method and pace: that the former be- lieves in gradual change and the latter in revolution. But this .completely misses the real point: that Fabian- ism, which is basically Social Democracy, believes in blending into the State apparatus, whereas Leninism believes in its destruction.
As Fabians to the core, Social Democracy gave a pseudo-progressive and idealistic tone to the state monopoly capitalism of the New Deal, comfortably assumed a large portion of power, and eagerly came to give “liberal” and socialist coloration to the Cold Warrand the Permanent War Economy ihat prevails in the United States. Old Left historians, previously fond of such mass-supported and libertarian figures as Jefferson and Jackson, as well as such mass move- ments as the Populists, now found that in the seats of power any mass action whatever might rock the boat: and so they came to hail Hamilton, the Whigs, and indeed all previous American Establishments, as prototypes of the very system that they were now enjoying.
The New Left tends to think of the elder statesmen of the Old as having “sold outw to the Establishment (=the power structure=the ruling classes); but this “sellout”, while very real, is deeper and more pro- found than the New Left realizes. For the strident reactionaries and celebrants of the “American dream” of the 1950′s and 60′s are taking a position logically implied in their supposedly radical golden age of the 1930′s. The Old Left, by embracing the State, “sold out* decades ago, and what we are now witnessing is the logical conclusion and final degeneration of this process.
The Social Democratic justification andrationalefor this surrender to the State may be summed up as: ‘representative democracy.-As long as everyone is allowed to vote, and the representatives of the majority do rule, the Social Democratic story runs, there is nothing for anyone to worry about: the State is transformed from the evil instrument of exploitation abhorred by classical Marxism and anarchism, into a friendly and beneficent institution responsive to the will of the majority. In their almost stupefying naivetd, the Social Democrats believe that the mere act of pulling down a lever in a ballot box and choosing between two machine candidates, insures the blessings of liberty and democracy to any decisions that the State rulers and the bureaucracy might then make. And this theory of political representative democracy was echoed in the very organizations of the Old Left: typified by a torpid and inactive mass run and manipulated by a handful of oligarchic officials–but officials who were duly elected every few years. The people, then, were consigned by the Old Left to the passive and manipulated role of marking their ballots every once in a while: and within that framework, the State and the bureaucracy were to have carte blanche–especially The President, who in his majesty and his periodic victory at the ballot box was the beau ideal of Social Democracy. Hence, the political emphasis of the Old Left was on central planning of the economy at home, and of “collective security” intervention into everyone’s affairs and wars all over the world.
It is no wonder then that, confronted by the spectre of this Leviathan, many people devoted to the liberty of the individual turned to the Right-wing, which seemed to offer a groundwork for saving the individual from this burgeoning morass. But the Right-wing, by embracing American militarism and imperialism, as well as police brutality against the Negro people, faced the most vital issues of our time. . . and came out squarely on the side of the State and against,the person. The torch of liberty against the Establishment passed therefore to the New Left.
The crucial contribution to both ends and means by the New Left as well as its most direct form of confrontation with the Old Left is the concept of ‘participatory democracy.” In the broadest sense, the idea of “participatory democracy” is profoundly individualist and libertarian: for it means that each individual, even the poorest and the most humble, should have the right to full control over the decisions that affect his own life. Participatory democracy is at the same time, (here again bringing a profoundly new dimension to social thought), a theory of olitics and a theory of organization, an approach to political affairs and to the way New Left organizations (or any organizations, for that matter) should function.
In 1949, Sidney Lens, one of the few older leftists who are also active in the New, distinguished between “manipulative” and ‘participative” democracy; and in 1962, Tom Hayden incorporated the ideal of partici- patory democracy into the founding Port Huron statement of the Students for a Democratic Society. Lens, in a recent article, has explained some of the differences very well:
“The United States is a democracy, all right, but a manipulative one in which we are excluded by and large from the major decisions in our lives. Participative democracy, on the other hand, means participation in the process of decision-making in all areas of life–economic and social, as well as political. Now if you judge the United States by its own standards of political democracy–that is, the right to put an ‘X* in a box every four years and to speak and write with a degree of tolerance–then the United States ranks very high in the firmament of democracies. But if you put it to the criteria of artici ative democracy, it ranks rather low. The area of decision-making is extremely narrow, and while we do have elections they are between two parties which stand for much the same thing.”
An excellent summary of the relation between the Right and the New Left was contained in a letter to Newsweek by a New Left student:
“The movement (the New Left) has taken up a “right wings cause which the avowed conservatives have dropped in favor of defending corporations and hunting Communists.
“This is the cause of the individual against the world. Most obviously, the activists exhort the individual to fight the world’s blatant evils. More subtle, more difficult and in the long run more important, they urge him not to trade his individual freedom for the mass-produced comfort modern society offers so temptingly. Hence, their natural hostility toward the Establishment, middle-class prosperity and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, and their ideal of decentralized “participatory democracyD–a sort of *statesg rightsD minus racism. . . until we’re sure just what we must renounce for the affluence of the liberal’s welfare state, we desperately need people who will bite the hand that feeds them.”
Organization and Tactics
As will be seen, it is impossible to isolate the organizational from the political aspects of the New Left’s theory of participatory democracy, because the New Left’s ends and means, its members’ personal lives and their abstract ideologies, blend and interpenetrate so closely. But let us attempt to turn first to the or anizational aspects of participatory democracy, since these have been the most striking and the best developed. As an intra-organizational theory, participatory democracy decrees that there be absolutely no bureaucratic elite, no ruling oligarchy within the organization: that each member, however new or humble, have his full say and full control over his own actions. One happy indirect consequence of this set-up is that a New Left organization is almost impossible to red-bait. In the so-called ‘Communist- front” organizations of the 1930′s or 1940′s, the organization was typically run by a few top officers, with the rank-and-file passively accepting their lead; this, indeed, has always been trueof all organizations. But the consequence was that these organizations could easily be red-baited, as it could be assumed that the secretary, the chairman, etc., played a role far beyond their number. But in a New Left organi- zation nobody can maintain that a few men run the show.
But far more important is the creative innovation that all this implies for the theory and practice of organization per se. Here indeed is a breakthrough for organizational work in any sphere of life at any time in history: and it has beencarriedout in practice in SNCC and SDS (and also by an organization not usually considered New Left: the Women Strike for Peace). Now it is very easy to ridicule this theory of organization and to see its shortcomings; and anyone who has sat through an eight-hour session far into the night in which forty people try to decide what color to paint the walls will emerge calling for a little old-fashioned administrative dictatorship. But this is a wonderful and exhilirating experiment in ways of voluntary social cooperation, and it should not be lightly abandoned. Interestingly enough, ex- plorations in such a truly individualist theory of organization have been carried on by such “right- wi$ libertarians as Dr. F. A. Harper of the In- stitute for Humane Studies; and fascinating experi- ments in economic management in which workers are transformed into independent and equal entre- preneurs have been carried out by a few business firms over the country. Yet such is the isolation of social thinkers today that the New Left and the other groups are unaware of each other’s existence or of their fundamental similarity: a function of the in- creasing obsolescence of the categories of “right” and “left” in today’s world.
The New Left organization, then, bends over backward not to manipulate the rank-and-file, to obtain ideas from the ranks, and to gain a genuine consensus and unanimity out of exhaustive (and often exhausting!) discussion. And then, at the polar opposite from any exaction of party discipline, each individual partici- pates only in those projects which he personally finds important or worthwhile. Here is a monumental contribution to the age-old problem of reconciling organization with the maximum independence and fulfillment of the individual.
The tactics of a New Left organization, tactics from which emerges its characteristic life-style,again mesh with the theory of participa’tory democracy. A New Left organization spurns the typically Old Left tactic (or any tactic of old organization, for that matter) of quiet lobbying in the back halls of the ~stablishment’s sources of power. In the New Left, every member wants to participate fully in advancing his goals, participate personally and com- pletely, thus integrating his way of life with his ab- stract goals. Hence the stress of the New Left on direct action by the membership, direct action in the streets.
Since the New Left is truly radical, totally opposed to the Establishment, its characteristic tactic of direct action has taken the form of mass civil. dis- obedience. Here again is a relatively new tactic on the American scene, especially as a continuing or- ganizational way of life. Beginning with the SNCC sit-ins in 1960, civil disobedience has, for the first time, brought mass non-violent resistance to the American scene. While its use as a mass tactic was fathered by Gandhi, the originator of the concept was the American Henry Tboreau, and hence Professor Staughton Lynd, the brilliant young historian who is probably the most prominent intellectual on the New Left, has called Thoreau the New Left’s single most important inspiration from the American past.
Now Thoreau was at least a quasi-anarchist, and mass civil disobedience is, purely and simply, an anarchist tactic. Hence, while the Old Left has grudgingly accepted the civil disobedience of the Martin Luther Kings, it basically looks with horror upon the entire concept, for at the root of it is the total breakdown of the mystique of The Law that permeates both the Right and Old Left alike. These apologists of the State say, time and time again, that if we don’t like a law, or consider it unjust, we must never, Er (except perhaps in an outright dlctatoxp) break that law; we must only go through accepted (manipulatively) democratic (1.e. govern- mental) channels to get the law peacefully, quietly, and discreetly changed. Break this process, say they, and the majesty of the law is ruptured, and who knows what anarchy may follow. Never mind that laws are being broken all the time (some broken so habitually that even the Right and the Old Left don’t take them seriously even though officially on the books), and that the infamy of Prohibition was smashed precisely by people going about their daily lives thumbing thelr noses at the law–untd it became crystal-clear that the law could not be enforced. The civil rights movement, after decades of going hat-in-hand to the law through the democratic pro- cess, had accomplished very little; and it was only when the civil rights movement went noisily into the streets to confront the State directly and to defy the vicious segregation laws that these laws finally collapsed. In short, it was only when the civil rights movement shifted from Old Left to New Left that it was able to break down the oppression of the white power structure.
The New Left learned many lessons from this experience. It learned that, morally, the “democratic” argument was a sham: that unjust laws deserve to be broken. And it learned that, strategically, the structure of unjust laws can only be smashed when deter- mined men, even if they be a minority, take to the streets eager and willing to defy t em. The New Left has learned the hard way the importance of the old revolutionary slogan: “fill the jails!” It learned that intensity of commitment and willingness to act on that commitment is far more important, morally and strategically, than the mere passive willingness to toddle down to the ballot box and mark an “X” every few years. To be blunt about it, the New Left is a movement of heroes.
If, then, the Old Left looked for its inspiration to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New looks to Thoreau; and this is particularly ironic when we consider that in the years after World War I1 the main advocate of Thoreau’s ideas in this country was the ‘right-wing’ libertarian Frank Chodorov, in his sparkling little broadsheet analysis: an instructive example indeed of the way in which libertarian ideals have unconsciously passed from Old Right to New Left. (It need hardly be added that the present-day Right looks upon Thoreau with total abhorrence.)
If, then, the New Left is radical, individualistic, and militant, what is the content of its ideology, what policies does it advocate? Here it is true that the New Left has not worked out a systematic ideology, a coherent vision of the society it wishes to bring into being. And here it is the despair of the various youth groups whose tight-knit ideologies they would like to impose upon the New Left. But this lack of a totally developed ideology is perfectly understandable: this is a movement new, young, groping, learning; and, furthermore, this looseness is even an advantage, for the result has been a healthy refusal to worry about all the old squabbles, about who betrayed whom in 1938, etc. that have chronically plagued radical movements in this country. This looseness of ideology, combined with the individualistic ideals of the New Left, have led–to the despair of many of the old cliques–to its absolute refusal to bait: red-bait, brown-bait, or any other type of baiting. The New Left cheerfully accepts and works with anyone who shares its specific goals, and wishes to join in its activities, and so engages in no internal purges, witch-hunts, or loyalty testing. Hence thefree and open atmosphere that tends to pervade the New Left.
But the New Left is not nearly as devoid of ideology as many observers believe. On the contrary, it knows precisely what it doesn’t like, what it totally opposes in our present society, even if its vision of the ultimate future is a bit cloudy. It can work devotedly for shorter or middle-run goals because its members are pervaded with a moral passion with whichexisting social and political institutions are gauged and found wanting. After generations of inculcation of the virus of positivism and utilitarianism, a virus that helped atrophy the moral fervor of each successive genera- tion, it is magnificent to see morality once again used to pass swift and final judgment upon American institutions. This is a moral fervor that insists on “Freedom–Nowa, sweeps aside the so-called “practical” objections of the tired, the resigned, and the comfortably adjusted, and dares boldly to bring its ideals into practice. The great Lord Acton saw unerringly that to take morality seriously is to be truly revolutionary, to install “a revolution inpermanence.’ And the “kids” of the New Left (for this is an over- whelmingly youthful movement) do take morality seriously.
The most important clue to New Left ideology is characteristically at the same time contentual and strategic (and also determined by the ideal of participatory democracy): the creation of “parallel insti- tutions.” In short, while the typical Old Left goal is to move into the seats of State power, and maneuver the State into piecemeal Mreforms” to be imposed upon the public from above, the New Left scorns statism and social reformism and aims to stimulate the people themselves to build “parallel institutionsg outside of, and confronting, the State apparatus. Staughton Lynd, the leading theorist of the parallel- institution way, has pointed out that the American Revolution occurred precisely by the people spontaneously and voluntarily creating local and then regional committees and assemblies totally apart from the State apparatus, and progressively taking on more and more of the State’s functions. He might have pointed to Pennsylvania as a particularly good example of this process: for here the existing assembly was particularly reactionary and reluctant to declare independence of Great Britain, and so the radicals proceeded to create a network of committees and assemblies that simply ignored the old assembly, and the older legislature literally withered away from lack of popular support or even attention. Another outstanding example of parallel institutions and its corollary, “dual power”, emerged in the Russian Revolution of 1917, in the form of the workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ soviets.
Let us now turn to specific areas in which the New Left has provided a highly libertarian thrust through the use of a pure and radical morality com- bined with a search for creating positive parallel institutions in society.
The Negro Question
Civil rights furnished the baptism of the New Left, and this has been a particularly fruitful area for demonstrating New Left ideology, tactics, and strategy.3 The Old Left civil rights movement was typically discreet, reformist, statist, embodied in the NAACP. Racially, its goal was integration, economically it advocated typical statist reform measures: government intervention in housing, federal aid toeducation, federal anti-poverty programs. Its method was to lobby the federal government, and enter cases in the federal courts.
The New Left has been activist, militant, stressing mass civil disobedience by the membership. The focus of attention in civil rights has been those matters that can be treated by mass demonstrations: segregation laws, restrictions on the right of the Negro to vote, all-pervasive police brutality. The focus on police brutality, importantly enough, is precisely the major concern of all the poorer classes of Negroes, in the South and in the ghettoes of the North and West. Indeed, it should be evident that the Negro uprisings of 1964 and the Watts insurrection of 1965 were directed, not against the usual Old Left shibboleths of poor housing, lack of playgrounds, or discrimination at lunch-counters: they were directed, almost exclusively, at systematic police brutality against the Negro in this country. A newspaper reporter thus described the well-springs of the retaliatory violence by the Negro workers of Birmingham–in retaliation for white bombings–that led President Kennedy to rush Federal troops to that city in May, 1963:
“They (the poorer Negroes) have known only two kinds of white men–the boss and the cop. The boss is none too good. . . But the cop is much worse. The cop accosts them at any hour and arrests them on any pretext.
“In every town there’s gossip of what cops do in the back room. There was no need for a back- room in Birmingham. The cops often beatNegroes senseless in full public view on the street. . .
“They had always cowered before the cops and held back their hatred–to protect their skulls. But suddenly, without forewarning, for they had been in no church rallies and ridden in no free- dom rides, they saw Negroes defying the hated cop.
“SO, the non-privileged decided to make it a fight of their own. ..”
Thus, by focussing on areas in which the white- run State oppresses the Negro people, the New Left has transformed the Negro movement from a basically statist into a basically libertarian movement–and by doing so, has come much more into alignment with the central airns.and desires of the Negro masses themselves. The New Left can well understand the key role for the Negro people of the issue of police brutality; for, in its own confrontations with the State, it too has felt at least a taste of what the Negro masses have been experiencing all their lives.
Similarly in economics: for here too the New Left has broken through the old Liberal shibboleths. The New Left, for example, believes that urban renewal, far from being a progressive measure benefitting the people, is a program of forced Negro removal for the benefit of favored real estate and construction interests. It recognizes that the federal anti-poverty program is a sham and a fraud, and a bureaucratic top-down manipulation of the Negro masses by the politicians and government officialdom. In contrast, the New Left has acted with the highest constructiveness on these issues, and has gone deep into the poorest Negro communities, has lived for many months as vital parts of these communities, and has stimulated these often disorganized and apathetic people into community organizations and “community unions’ stressing self-help by the impoverished Negroes themselves. In the North, SDS has, in the past year and a half, gone deeply into the poorest of the Negro ghetto areas (e.g., Newark, Cleve1and)and used the utmost humility and patience in participatory democracy to build self-help organizations and com- munity unions. In the South, SNCC has done a phenomenal job in stimulating self-help and right- to-vote drives among the most depressed ruralNegro communities, especially in Mississippi. A parallel institution in the political realm was launched by SNCC in the form of a Freedom Democratic Party of Mississippi, which may well serve as a model for Freedom Parties in other states and regions. The New Left established Freedom Schools in Mississippi in the summer of 1964, headed by Staughton Lynd, to provide, in a participatorily democratic way, education for impoverished Negroes which would not or could not be provided by the State apparatus. Here was another, and highly useful, form of parallel institution.
The New Left, furthermore, has cast off the un- critical adulation of the Old toward labor unionism, Instead of looking invariably to unions as thevanguard of progress, the New Left sees clearly that labor unions have constituted some of the most restrictive and monopolistic forces in American society. And toward Negroes, trade unions have been more restrictive and discriminatory than has any other segment of American life.5 Hence the formation by SNCC in Mississippi of another important parallel institution: the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union for enrolling Negro workers.
Peace and United States Imperialism
A measure of the enormous impact of the New Left is the way that it has swiftly and radically transformed the American peace movement. Before 1964-65, the American peace movement was almost classically Old Left: torpid, superficial, manipulative, hat-in-hand. Typical was the leading American peace organiza- tion, the Committee for a SaneNuclear Policy (SANE). Trying desperately for respectability, SANE’S typical stance was to address letters or advertisements to the President, of the: ‘please Mr. President, follow your true instincts and be a little more peaceful” variety. Above all, the impetus ot SANE was in no sense any moral revulsion at American war policies or against Americans pushing smaller nations around; it was solely a matter of protecting American citizens from potential nuclear holocaust. In short, peace was desired in the abstract while there was an absolute refusal to dig into the question of who the major enemies of peace are, or where the drive for war is coming from in the present world. Indeed, any attempt to pin responsibility upon American imperialism for the Cold War or for other American wars was immediately labelled “double standard*. And, as Sidney Lens has pointed out, since ‘third campism’ inevitably becomes ‘one-and-a half campism”, SANE-type peace people inevitably wound up as only slightly reluctant supporters of basic American foreign policy, in short of United States global militarism and imperialism.
The same indeed is true of the small, old-line pacifist organizations (e.g. Committee for Nan-Violent Action, War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation); while willing to bear personal witness for peace (peace walks, strapping themselves to Polaris submarines, etc.) these pacifists, by being aggressively ‘third-camp”, failed to engage in any sort of realistic or knowledgeable analyses of the cause of international crises. Hence, these pacifists remained almost completely irrelevant to the American ideological scene. This total irrelevance was multiplied by the refusal of the old-line pacifists to make any moral distinctions between the use of defensive and of offensive violence. Even the old-line pacifists’ long-standing opposition to conscription was at bottom weak: for they object not so much to conscription er se as slavery, nor to the imperialist wars in Sic~theconscripts must serve, but only to conscription’s personal coercion to kill. As a result, the old-line pacifists tend to be satisfied with the present conscription system which exempts them as conscientious objectors from having to kill anyone. AS Robert J. Smith has pointed out, in conscription these pacifists object only to killing; they do not really object to their own enslavement (e.g. CO camps).
The accelerating slide of SANE and other Old Left peace groups into superficiality led them by 1963 to exclusive concentration upon the needfor a test-ban treaty to keep Strontium-90 out of children’s milk. It was this kind of lowest-level issue that mobilized the suburban mothers and on which the peace movement became fixated; and hence the test-ban treaty of 1963, as the Chinese Communists gloomily and accurately predicted, pulverized and liquidated the peace movement in the United States. The suburban mothers happily returned to their PTA meetings, convinced that the millenium had arrived, and the peace movement came de facto to an end. But not only the mothers: at a Scientists for Survival conference in New York in the summer of 1964, the prevailing opinion of the assembled scholars and professors was that the hoped for detente with the Soviets had arrived, that the Cold War was really at an end, and that therefore there was really nothing further to worry about. This monumental and widespread inanity stemmed, again, from a general scholarly refusal to probe into the causes of war in the present-day world, and specifically to investigate the nature of United States imperialism.
From this total bankruptcy of the American peace movement, there began to emerge a truly radical, New Left-type of movement, devoted characteristically to opposition to war and conscription through resistance to American imperialism. Characteristically again, this new movement was a youth, a student movement, as have been virtually all activities of the New Left. In the spring of 1964, the May 2nd Movement was formed, dedicated specifically to opposition to the American war in Vietnam, and more generally to the etiology of that war in American imperialism; here, in short, was a radical anti-imperialist student movement that did not consider its function that of advising the State Department how best to preserve the American presence in Viet- nam. It considered its function that of taking a moral stand in opposition to the whole American involvement, past, present, and future. In early 1965,when the U. S. began its systematic, brutal and totally indefensible bombing of North Vietnam, the far larger SDS perceived the moral issue and was at last galvanized into action against American imperialist foreign policy. Taking its cue from the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, SDS held a highly successful anti-Vietnam War March on Washington in April, 1965, despite massive Old Left hostility, and based on the New Left principle of %on-exclusion”, of welcoming all those opposed to the war. And then, miracle of miracles, the shining example of this eager mass of students activated even the comfortably torpid American professoriat, and there swept the country in the late spring that remarkable new phenomenon–the teach-in. Inspired by the militant direct-action ‘ins’ of the New Left, the teach-in created, if only for a single night at each locale a much-needed parallel institution in academe, a true community of scholars in which faculty and students alike could educate each other meaningfully and in depth on a truly vital issue of the day.
Of course, the teach-in had its weaknesses, stemming from its failure to be New Left enough, i.e., to be fully moral. Faculty experts could not resist the temptation to play State Department adviser, to indulge in realpolitik. And yet, as so often happens, the moral position turned out to be far more practical and ‘realistic’ than the supposed practicality of those whom C. Wright Mills brilliantly called ‘the crackpot realists.’ For the New Left student position was and is simply: immediate U. S. withdrawal from Vietnam. This position is moral, simple, and irrefutable by expertise or by Administration razzle- dazzle. But the supposedly ‘practical’ position dominant at the teach-ins: ‘negotiation to end the war’, immediately and inevitably became entangled in superior Administration expertise. For, after all, President Johnson only needed to assure everyone that he was negotiating and was willing to negotiate, and then how could anyone say him nay? The only ractical position for the peace movement is to forget about procedural matters (e.g. negotiations) and simply demand of the Administration concrete results, i.e. immediate withdrawal. Given this demand, the detailed procedure may be left to the president.
The measure of the gulf between Old and New Left is their vividly contrasting responses to the war in Vietnam and to America’s previous imperialist war, in Korea. Korea effectively liquidated the Old Left as a force for peace; for almost to a man, and awe-struck by the imprimatur of the absurdly venerated United Nations, the Old Left rushed to endorse America’s intervention in Korea. 6 In contrast, the New Left was galvanized by America’s escalation of the conflict into far more vigorous anti-war activity, an activity particularly remarkable because it is courageously taking place durinR a war, not merely before or after.’ Indeed, opposition to the Vietnam War has now become the central focus of New Left concerns. It was largely in connection with the Viet- nam war that Staughton Lynd, in a brilliant article, advanced the idea of parallel institutions to oppose the war, as against the Old Left strategy of reformist coalition within established channels of the Democratic Party, a coalition that Lynd trenchantly referred to as *coalition with the marines.” sSpecificaI- ly, Lynd called for a new Continental Congress of the people, to set against an American Congress that fails to represent the opposition to the war, as well as for professorial foreign policy committees to hold hearings on the war; furthermore, “men of spiritual authority from all the world might be convened as a parallel Supreme Court, to assess guilt and responsibility for the hosror of Vietnam.” The Assembly of Unrepresented People that met around the Washington Monument this August was a response to that call; certainly too quixotic and premature to be a genuine Continental Congress, it did at least result in an SDS-oriented National Coordinating Committee of grass-roots groups that oppose the Vietnam war.
At a conference of radical scholars in September, 1965, Staughton Lynd advanced theview that the revolu- tionary crisis situation in the United States would come, not as in classical Marxism from economic depression, but from being increasingly bogged down in imperialist wars. It was indeed defeat or stale- mate in imperialist war that led directly to the Paris Commune of 1871, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, and to the Chinese Revolution of the 1940′s.
Since the bulk of the New Left are students, perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of New Left activity has been the campus revolution, notably the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of the fall and winter of 1964-65, and the numerous student protests throughout the country that resulted from Berkeley. While free speech was the immediate issue, an issue that mobilized student support throughout the whole ideological spectrum from Maoists on the Left to Goldwaterites on the Right, the young militants at Berkeley realized from the beginning that far more was at stake: that what was needed was a revolution in the entire educational system in this country.
For what the youth at Berkeley were rebelling against was precisely the system of mass education in the United States, a system that herds increasing masses of young men and women into college to train them in uniformity and conformity, and to take their due and uncomplaining places in the gigantic military-industrial complex. It was this massive impersonal bureaucracy, this grinding “m a ch in en, that the Berkeley students realized was the pernicious microcosm of American society as a whole. The Berkeley students concluded that only by direct confrontation, only by radical civil disobedience against the machine, could any autonomy be won in their p.ersona1 lives or any area be carved out for a truly educational process.
It is ironically appropriate that the Berkeley up- rising came at a university whose mammoth bureau- cracy reflected the apogee of the educational theories of its President, Clark Kerr; and that President Kerr is the very model of a modern Liberal, an economist whose experience has been in labor arbitration and whose view of education is precisely as avast factory to process the students to fit into the military-indus- trial complex. Kerr’s viewpoint is that of the Liberal who frankly accepts statism and giant bureaucracy as the literal ‘Wave of the Future’; the task of the university, or ‘multiversity’, is to service State capitalism by supplying it with its experts and technicians; and all of this is to be accomplished largely by the university administrators, Kerr’s enthusiastically embraced ‘Captains of the Bureau- cracy.’ In what might only be called the apotheosis of social fascism, Clark Kerr calls on everyone to welcome what he himself terms the ‘new slavery”, headed by the bureaucrats andthemanagers: ‘Turning Marx on his head (as James Burnham had done a generation earlier in h heManageri$ Revolution), they are the “vanguard of the future . All of this Kerr held forth consciously as “the socialist view, for service to society which the administration and the trustees represent.’ This in noble contrast to “non- conformists’ who wish to criticize or attack society, and to the parochial ‘guild views of those faculty members who seek ‘self-determination,’ As a self- styled Captain of Bureaucracy himself, of course, it was easy for Kerr to adapt to this kind of “socialist’ role.
For the university, Kerr wrote that:
“The campus and society are undergoing a some- what reluctant and cautious merger, already well advanced. MIT is at least as much related to industry and government as Iowa State ever was to agriculture. . . . The university is being called upon . . .to respond to the expanding claims of national service.
The university is to function as a knowledge factory processing the students who are its ‘raw material’ into fit products to serve the various organs of state capitalism.
Particularly relevant to the student revolt was Clark Kerr’s expressed attitude toward intellectuals, especially students. For above all, they are dangerous, precisely because they have no vested interests or life commitments and are therefore fully free to think:
“The intellectuals (including the university students) are a particularly volatile element. . . capable of extreme reactions to objective situations–more extreme than any group in society. They are by nature irresponsible, in the sense that they have no continuing commitment to any single institution or philosophical outlook and they are not fully answerable for consequences. They are, as a result, never fully trustedby anybody. . .”
Hal Draper (another rare Old Leftist who,has made the transition to the New), in his brilliant dissection of The Mind of Clark Kerr, at this point properly exploded in indignation:
“In all likelihood, dear ‘reader, you did not’read this carefully enough. Did you notice that the entire tradition of humanistic and democratic educational philosophy has been contemptuously tossed into the famous garbage can of history? It teaches ‘irresponsibilitv’; you cannot trust people brought up that way. . .”
But, adds Kerr in the best Liberal fashion, intellectuals can also be a “tool” (revealing term) as well as a ‘danger”; after all, intellectuals are needed to service the State, to furnish technicians and strategic thinkers for the military, and to supply ideological weapons for fighting the Cold War. ‘Consequently, writes Kerr, “it is important who best attracts or captures the intellectuals and who uses them most effectively, for they may be a tool as well as a source of danger. And Draper aptly comments: “There are the alternative roles of the intellectual in the Kerrian world: tool or danger. It is a notorious dichotomy, celebrated in the literature of totalitarianism.”
It was in this kind of a university and this kind of an ideological climate that the Berkeley rebellion took place, and the militant students were quite conscious of the nature of this confrontation. Thus, thefollowing item appeared in No. 5 of the FSM (Free Speech Movement) Newsletter, for December 10, 1964:
“At the beginning, we did not realize the strength of the forces we were up against. We have learned that we must fight. . .the Board of Regents with their billions of dollars and Governor Brown with his army of cops.
“But neither did they realize the forces they were up against. At the beginning, they thought thev had only to fight a hundred or so ‘beatniks’. ‘Maoists’, and ‘Fidelistas’. But they put eight hundred of the ‘hard core’ in jail and found they still had to face thousands of other students and faculty members.
“The source of their power is clear enough: the guns and clubs of the Highway Patrol, the banks and corporations of the Regents. But what is the source of our power?
“It is something we see everywhere on campus but find hard to define. Perhaps it was best expressed by the sign one boy pinned to his chest: ‘I am a UC student. Please don’t bend, fold, spindle or mutilate me.’ The source of our >.: .. . strength is, very simply, the fact that we are human beings and so cannot forever be treated as raw materials–to be processed. Clark Kerr has declared, in his writings and by his conduct, that a university must be like any other factory– a place where workers who handle raw material are themselves handled like raw material by the administrators above them. Kerr is confident that in his utopia ‘there will nor be any revolt, anyway, except little bureaucratic revolts that can be handled piecemeal.’
“As President of one of the greatest universities in the world, one which is considered to lie on the ‘cutting edge of progress,’ Kerr hopes to make UC a model to be proudly presented for the considera- tion of even higher authorities.
“By our action, we have proved Kerr wrong in his claim that human beings can be handled like raw material without provoking revolt. We have smashed to bits his pretty little doll house. The next task will be to build a real housefor real people.”