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New Left

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The New Left not only have no blueprint, they don’t want a blueprint. Let’s just see what happens, they say. Well, I can tell them what will happen: first anarchy, then dictatorship. They are rich in Tom Paines, but they have no Thomas Jefferson.
Gore Vidal[1]

The New Left[note 1] was a collection of leftist groups in the US and UK that sprang up in the early 1960s as a reaction to, on the one hand, the perceived timidity of liberalism on such issues as racial equality and the Vietnam War; and, on the other, the thoroughly discredited and powerless "Old Left" of the Communist Party USA and its various Trotskyist enemies.

While the Old Left adhered to a thoroughly materialistic philosophy and aimed toward political revolutions along broadly communist lines, particularly by infiltrating labor unions and otherwise drumming up blue-collar workers, the "New Left" focused on young people of all classes (particularly college students) and brought in various religious and spiritual perspectives, as well as a variety of dope-fueled wackiness, in an effort to bring a revolution not only to the political and social systems, but also to age-old Western modes of thinking.


Generational change marked by the predisposition of youth to challenge authority on moral terms was exacerbated by the large numbers of youth at the time (due to the 1950s baby boom) and the large proportion of these youths entering institutions of higher education.[2] (The rebellion even began to spread to high schools.[3]) There they encountered both older conservative and more recent liberal accounts of history and social science that, in their assessment, did not adequately explain national and world events. The plodding nature of the liberal response to racial oppression and imperialist violence motivated a search for explanation in the heady post-war fusion of Marxism and Freudianism favored by leftist intellectuals in the West. It also led to a preference for action over reflection. Consider the following rant by Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman:

Once one has experienced LSD, existential revolution, fought the intellectual game-playing of the individual in society, of one's identity, one realizes that action is the only reality; not only reality but morality as well. It exists in the head. I am the Revolution.[4]

Orthodox Soviet-style Marxism-Leninism held no attraction for most Western radicals. The Soviet Union had lost its moral legitimacy in the advanced industrial countries, even among lefties, after the crimes of Stalin had been published and denounced by the new regime of Nikita Khrushchev, so some in the New Left were looking for a more "pure" form of Communism. The Soviets' repression of Hungary in 1956 to crush an anti-Soviet uprising, and their invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 that put an end to the "Prague Spring", reinforced the alienation from Moscow.

Inspiration, or at least the imagery of mass rebellion, was found in the work of the new, non-Western Marxists such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh.[5] As leaders who had thrown off the shackles of Western colonialism, their images would become icons for those who opposed capitalism and imperialism in general.[note 2]

On a more philosophical level, the works of Herbert Marcuse, especially One Dimensional Man, were particularly important. Marcuse criticized the socially alienating effects of modern capitalism, incorporating Marxism with Freud and critical theory in a way which the Old Left had not done. He extended this critique also to identifying the same social alienation under Soviet communism, and in the place of the stodgy "industrial proletariat" he championed an oppositional culture led by youth, minorities and the intelligentsia. Another important influence was Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman, a 1960 book about the alienation of growing up in a society geared mainly toward consumerism and preparing people for a life of meaningless and unfulfilling jobs. Goodman attributed the rise of both juvenile delinquency and the Beat Generation to a youthful rebellion against this. Also influential were Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Both had been part of the resistance against the Nazi occupation of France, Camus as an anarchist, while Sartre was considered a "fellow traveler" with the French Communist Party but did not join. Both continued to support left-wing causes but turned toward developing the philosophy which would come to be labeled existentialism (although Camus rejected the label in favor of calling himself an absurdist).

While the New Left amalgamated political philosophies ranging from left-liberal to socialist to anarchist, for a brief period it formed a cultural identity as well. A semi-personal, semi-political embrace of non-mainstream cultural identities and a socially libertarian questioning of institutions, restrictions, and traditional roles were hallmarks of the 1960s youth counterculture that intersected with the milieu of the New Left. Those tendencies fertilized the fields that the early gay rights movement grew in. Rock & roll had morphed from a youth subculture to a core expression of a full-blown social movement. That confluence of political and cultural identity turned out to be short-lived, as more revanchist and authoritarian tendencies gained ascendancy in the New Left as the decade drew towards its close. The increasingly rigid ideas on what was required to be a good leftist, culminating in the imperatives of "politically correct" cultural conformity, conflicted with socially libertarian ideals. By the mid-1970s, social libertarianism itself was seen as oppressive by advocates of the identity politics that arose from the New Left.[citation needed]

Major groups[edit]

The most salient American groups in this time period were the Yippies, the "Students for a Democratic Society" (SDS), the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Black Panther Party. Their British counterparts coalesced around the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or CND, which is still in business,[6] but could also be recognized in everything from Trotskyist organizers of militant tendency to the urban guerrillas of the Angry Brigade.[7]

The Yippies, led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, blended New Left and anarchist rhetoric with entertaining '60s counterculture performance. The more sober SDS sprang more clearly from, and in partial opposition to, the "Old Left." The SDS emerged as a college group affiliated with the "League for Industrial Democracy," which was associated with organized labor and had existed in one form or other since 1905. Some SDS leaders were so-called 'red diaper' babies, or children of radicals from the Old Left. Others were children of privilege with roots in Christian pacifism. In 1962, SDS put out the first real statement of "New Left" Principles, the "Port Huron Statement."[8] It put forward a "new" vision of what socialism and politics could be about, focused on "relationships" and calling for an end to racial inequality and imperialism.[note 3]

SDS went through successive stages of radicalization. At the time of the Port Huron Statement SDS was liberal-reformist and put forth a program for civil rights, against poverty, and removing Dixiecrat influence from the Democratic Party. They were supporters of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Then, inspired by the Black Power movement while growing frustrated with mainstream protest against the Vietnam War, SDS then became militant and switched its focus from reform to "revolutionary" confrontation largely centered on extreme in-your-face rhetoric and vandalism. During the radicalization of SDS between 1967 and 1969 Maoism became its dominant ideology, although there were still anarchist, utopian, and left-liberal tendencies. By 1969 the SDS leadership was in the hands of competing Maoist factions and infighting split the organization between factions aligned with the Progressive Labor Party (PL, a remnant of the Old Left), and anti-PL Maoists who went on to form the Weather Underground, Revolutionary Youth Movement, Revolutionary Union and other groups.[9] SDS largely ceased to be influential after it split up at their fractious June 1969 convention, although some offshoot groups continued to gain attention with theatrical violence.

At the same time, increasingly militant tendencies within the Civil Rights movement came to align themselves with the New Left, or vice-versa. The most obvious examples were the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers. SNCC began in 1960 to coordinate civil rights marches in the South, and radicalized in the middle of the decade under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael; in a famous speech from early 1967, Carmichael renounced non-violence and popularized the slogan of "black power."[note 4] Reflecting its change of direction, SNCC changed its name in 1969 to the Student National Coordinating Committee.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, and engaged in militant protest against police brutality in black communities, often carrying firearms.[note 5] The Black Panthers made it their mission to mobilize the lumpenproletariat of the ghettos and evoked a sentimental socialism contrary to the Marxist tradition.[10]

The militancy of the Black Panthers in Oakland further radicalized the white student left at nearby Berkeley, who came to see the Panthers as something of a vanguard they wanted to imitate. Many members of SDS went into "the ghetto" to try to help with organizing the poor, particularly the white poor,[note 6] to help push for greater social justice and racial integration. Although it received little attention in the press, perhaps because it failed to offer the kind of threatening images beloved by journalists, poor whites also began to organize using the Black Panthers as a model and their revolutionary lumpenproletariat conception as a theory. Radical anti-racist poor white groups included the "Young Patriots Organization" and "Rising Up Angry" in Chicago, "White Lightning in the Bronx," and the "October 4th Organization" in Philadelphia.[11] The macho, vaguely menacing style of the Black Power movement became part of the radical chic among whites eager to show their status as authentic revolutionaries. The adoption of that style by white New Left groups was inopportune, as it collided with the nascent feminist and gay rights movements that were growing in the hothouse of campus activism.

In December 1971 the New American MovementWikipedia (NAM) was founded as a New Left umbrella group to replace the old SDS. NAM was known for publishing newsletters targeted to various causes, and for contributing articles to the newspapers The GuardianWikipedia and In These TimesWikipedia until it fused with the Democratic Socialist Organizing CommitteeWikipedia to form Democratic Socialists of AmericaWikipedia in 1983.

In its rejection of conventional Soviet-style Marxism, the New Left had engagement with a wider variety of ideologies, some of which were completely non-socialist or at best vaguely utopian. As already noted, then-trendy philosophers ranging from Marcuse to the existentialists had a broad effect influencing both the New Left and the forms it took (counterculture, student-led protest, Black Power). There has long been debate as to whether Yippies and hippies can be considered part of the New Left. Many outsiders consider them both part of the general anarchism that the New Left fostered, but most of the members of SDS and other groups denounced both the Yippies and Hippies as unserious jokers.[note 7] For another example, the early libertarians grouped around Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess initially conceived of libertarianism as an alliance between the New Left and paleoconservatism. Hess soon went full-on New Left, dropping out of society, joining the Black Panthers, SDS, and IWW, leading anti-war direct actions, starting an ambitious community self-sufficiency project in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and eventually embracing a "back to the land" philosophy and moving to West Virginia. Rothbard for his part soon swung hard to the right into tough-on-crime cop fetishism.

Some other groups within the New Left proved to be a breeding ground for political cultism. The best known of these was the National Caucus of Labor Committees, led by Lyn Marcus. The brand of radical feminism espoused by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon also has cult-like features and, unlike the Lyn Marcus cult, has gained influence in academia and policy.

Vietnam War[edit]

SDS and other groups had long opposed the war, and so used it as the foundation of their critique of "establishment" politics. By 1967, escalation of the war and the military draft were fostering widespread dissent centered mostly on college campuses. In the spring and fall of 1967, large demonstrations were organized in New York and Washington by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in VietnamWikipedia (NMC), in which SDS was a participant. By 1968, the failure of the bombing campaign to subdue the Vietnamese insurgency and the rise of anti-war sentiment with an upcoming election were leading the Johnson Administration to seek negotiations for settlement of the war. Johnson was deeply distrusted by opponents of continued intervention; Eugene McCarthy's primary challenge to Johnson became a vehicle of the anti-war movement. But there was also an association in the public mind between antiwar protesters and the scruffy youth counterculture that was taking hold in college towns. This led many members of SDS and the anti-war movement in general to "clean up" in 1968 in order to campaign for McCarthy (hence the slogan, "Clean for Gene"). After the twin shocks of McCarthy's strong early primary showing and the Vietcong's Tet Offensive, Johnson withdrew from the presidential race. The New Left saw itself as on the cusp of being a major force in American politics. As it turned out, 1967 to early 1968 was the high water mark of their influence, although in the following years they would gain notoriety for alienating tactics such as "trashing," i.e. hit-and-run mini-riots, theatrical posturing such as rallying behind the Vietcong flag and waving placards extolling the virtues of Ho Chi Minh, and the serial bombing perpetrated by such groups as the Weather Underground.

When it became clear that the Democratic Party machine led by Chicago Mayor Richard V. "Boss" Daley was going to nominate Hubert Humphrey through backroom deals and shut out the anti-war tendency that had gathered behind McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, many members of SDS and other groups such as the Yippies gathered in Chicago to protest, with the nominal authority of the NMC. The Chicago protest was in fact supported mainly by the New Left contingent of the NMC; the movement became split between the New Left faction and others who preferred that the movement remain focused on the specific demand of US withdrawal from Vietnam. Turnout for the protest was disappointing. Only about 10,000 protesters showed up, a small fraction of the numbers hoped for, and they were outnumbered by the police and National Guard force called up in response. The organizers were angered with movement "traitors" who they felt were obligated to show up for the demonstrations whether they supported them or not. The protest camps in Chicago parks were by day countercultural gatherings and by night sites of regular confrontations between demonstrators and police, as the gatherings were un-permitted and the parks officially closed. On the final night of the convention, tear gas was used to disperse the crowd in Grant Park after a very tense and confrontational day. Groups of protesters went through the streets towards the convention at the Hilton, with incidents of traffic blocking and "trashing" on the way. The stage was set for the Chicago Police Riot; roving bands of riot-geared Police went in search of enemies and it did not matter whether their perceived enemies were orderly or not. The violence came to a climax outside the Hilton, where it was televised into infamy.[12] Eight (later seven) prominent radicals were then tried on charges of conspiring to incite riot. All were convicted, but their convictions were reversed on appeal. The investigating commission later ruled it was the police who had rioted, by attacking protesters, bystanders and journalists indiscriminately. NMC, or what was left of it, organized a "counter-inauguration" protest on the day of Richard Nixon's inauguration, with about 10,000 protesters showing up.

New Left protests related to the war fell into a pattern of being small and theatrical with extreme rhetoric, with or without violence. They tended to occur in parallel with, or semi-opposed to, the much larger protests that the mainstream of the anti-war movement mounted from 1969 to 1971. As SDS and their offshoots spun off into the abject nuttiness of "revolution" and "bringing the war home," they became increasingly irrelevant to anti-war protest except as a foil for right wing backlash. They also became increasingly self-referential in their objects of protest. One major driver of the 1968 Columbia University protests was the disciplinary action taken by the University against students who had staged disruptive indoor demonstrations.[13] The People's Park movement in Berkeley originated from a conspiracy theory that UC Berkeley had destroyed blocks of rental housing to get rid of activists who had been a thorn in their side. Never mind that redevelopment for more dormitories to accommodate increased enrollment had been planned since 1957.[14] Days of Rage was all about a desire for revenge against Chicago and its police force. The Chicago Seven verdict was followed by "The Day After" protests with the usual SDS-style "trashing." New Lefters responded to the failure of their "revolution" strategy by staging one final gimmick, the Mayday demonstration using the newfound tactic of passive civil disobedience to "shut down Washington" in 1971 (it failed).


See main article: Weather Underground

The failure of the "Get Clean for Gene" campaign led some (including Bill Ayers) to believe that nothing short of glorious revolutionary violence< terrorism would change the US system. This group of SDS members went full-on Maoist, and adopted three propositions:

  1. The primacy of confronting national chauvinism and racism among working class whites.
  2. The urgency of preparing for militant, armed struggle now.
  3. The necessity of building revolutionary collectives that demand total, wholehearted commitment of the individual to struggle against everything that interferes with the revolutionary struggle.[15]

The Weathermen are best known today for several terroristic acts, including bombing government buildings. However, for the Weathermen, the most important action was the "Days of Rage" in Chicago, where the Weathermen hoped to start the revolution through direct action. They expected thousands of newly minted guerrillas to show up, and by destroying the police stations and the symbols of capitalism in the city to inspire leftists across the country to rise up in general rebellion against the system. Instead, roughly 600[2] students showed up, but they gave it a go anyway.

According to Weatherman estimates, over a million dollars in damage was inflicted, and roughly 50 policemen went to the hospital, with far fewer casualties on the Weatherman side. However, the Weathermen were hit with heavy legal penalties, with 250 arrested and 40 or so with heavy felony charges. The Weathermen considered it a victory, and were certain that it was going to lead to the overthrow of The Man shortly.

Impact of the New Left[edit]

The New Left contributed its own imagery of popular revolt. What else did it leave? Rather than bringing the Vietnam War to an end sooner, the reaction mobilized against it by the powerful conservative and liberal enemies it made helped to divert public attention from the tragedy of the war. However, the war issue in the U.S. presidential election campaigns of 1968 and 1972 played out with the candidates of both major parties talking the rhetoric of "peace," and was effectively de-fused in 1972 by the announcement of an imminent peace settlement. Most of the major civil rights victories are attributable to mainstream civil rights groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. SNCC provides the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, thereafter the mainstream civil rights groups stagnated, and the civil rights movement stagnated along with them.

American-styled capitalism itself was never clearly in jeopardy from the critiques of the New Left.

Probably the biggest impacts occurred due to the mistakes of the New Left. The excesses of SDS and the Black Power movement provided a foil for the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon and George Wallace in 1968. The New Left's extreme rhetoric, negativity, violence, and contempt for "middle America" during the late 1960s alienated much of the public towards protest movements in general. The American electorate delivered a stunning rebuke to the influence of the New Left within the Democratic Party in the 1972 presidential election. The early 1970s saw the New Left flailing in search of strategies and tactics to replace those that had become obvious dead ends — passive civil disobedience to replace "confrontations" with police, "the personal as political," influencing "the system" from within (careerism), and electoralism. "The personal as political" became seen as puritanical cult behavior derided as "political correctness," fostering a rift between the left-liberals and cultural libertarians. The legalistic and bureaucratic attempts to force social change fed into a backlash against coercive "big government" that grew through the 1970s.

The second wave of feminism, or "Women's Liberation," had ideological roots in works such as Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. The New Left facilitated the spread of feminist ideology, first by putting large numbers of politically aware women in contact with each other, and second by confronting those same women with the sexism within SDS and SNCC.[16] Despite a great deal of rhetoric concerning "equality," women in these groups found themselves repeatedly denigrated and forced into the domestic roles decried as oppressive in The Feminine Mystique. This was especially galling in SDS, because many of the most successful ventures (particularly in the community organizing arms) were led and run by women. As women became fed up with being second-class even in the revolution, they left and founded their own far more successful movement, which really helped to change the face of American society. The success of the feminist movement in using academia, the legal system, bureaucracy, electoralism, and corporate culture as instruments of change stands as perhaps the greatest success from the path the New Left adopted from the 1970s onward, albeit not without unintended political consequences, such as the electoral marginalization of their main political vehicle, the Democratic Party, in recent years.

Likewise, the modern environmental movement emerged partly because the New Left had, for the most part, spurned environmentalism as the concern of elites more worried about animals than people. Thus, ironically, many elements of anti-environmental crankery popular with right-wingers today, in particular the idea of environmental classism, got their start among '60s left-wing radicals, who viewed the first Earth Day in 1970 as "the white liberal's cop out" and believed that concerns about overpopulation were motivated by fears of dark-skinned hordes from the Third World overrunning the "civilized" nations.[17] Themes of this can still be seen in the anti-environmentalism of Lyndon LaRouche, whose politics have been all over the political spectrum but who started out as a Marxist, worked within SDS, and later claimed that environmentalism is a ploy by the wealthier nations to keep the developing world in a neo-colonial state by stalling industrialization. In response, the environmental movement changed its message in the '70s and '80s to stress the damage that pollution and environmental degradation does to humans (particularly the poor) in order to win left-wingers to its side.

However, many American conservatives act as if the New Left somehow managed to take control of the whole country.[note 8] Another example of this is the "documentary" Generation Zero, which purports that old members of the "New Left" secretly engineered the 2008 financial crisis to create global socialism. That none of this makes sense doesn't stop people holding the now-barely existent New Left up as current dangers. More credence can be given to the New Left as the originators of critical race theory and gender theory that are the staples of ethnic and gender studies departments in higher education. They are integrated into the theoretical framework of courses in education, law, social work, and criminal justice. Thus, while ideas originating from the New Left may not have widespread acceptance, they have acceptance among various milieu with disproportionate influence on social policy. The disconnect between popular acceptance and policy-class acceptance of New Left theory is a source of populist backlash against the administrative state and its support structures in media, academia, business, and advocacy groups.

The Tea Party: The right's New Left?[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Tea Party movement
I don't know where we go now as a party. I'm very concerned that we may go all the way to the right.
Peter King (R-NY). Yes, that Peter King.[18]

The plunge of ideological movements into an ever-deeper irrationality at the far end of the horseshoe when they near intellectual exhaustion may be a recurring feature of American political life, more so than any country in the Western world.[note 9] The New Left emerged at the moment when American liberalism was sputtering to a halt in the face of the contradictions between a domestic policy of social and economic reform and a foreign policy that brought upon instances of costly and bloody protracted warfare. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, the main vehicle of the American left, was tearing itself into two camps — minorities and liberals who supported civil rights, feminism, and other social reform movements, and Southern segregationists (who, until the 1970s, viewed the Republicans as the party of the War of Northern Aggression) and working-class Northerners (who were socially conservative, but voted Democratic due to labor issues) who felt that these changes were destroying America's moral foundation.

Today, the same thing is happening in American politics… but on the other side of the aisle. The Tea Party movement has emerged at the moment when growing numbers of Americans detected a contradiction between the Christian values espoused by the Republican Party and the actual practice of a militarist foreign policy and a laissez-faire capitalism devoid of concern for human well-being — and indeed, a further contradiction between the hate spewed by the Religious Right towards the LGBT community, Muslims, and other minorities and what was actually preached by Jesus.

Partly for this reason, many have drawn comparisons between the Tea Party movement and the New Left.[19] Dick Armey, one of the main figures behind the Teabaggers, praised the methods of Saul Alinsky, the leading tactician of the New Left, and Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, the famous guidebook for hard-left activists and organizers, has become a right-wing bestseller (seriously), co-opted by the Tea Party in the form of Rules for Radical Conservatives.[20] The Tea Party, like the New Left, has a penchant for shock value,[21] street theater,[note 10] marches, and rallies in order to bring attention to the movement. Anti-science denialism infects both movements — the New Left took on countercultural Luddite baggage that regarded science and technology as instruments of oppression. The anti-science sentiments of the New Left took forms that still echo today, with organo-fetishism and the fear of GMO foods, taboos against "oppressive" consideration of issues of human population and biology, denunciations of the "whiteness" of science, and an almost religious stance against nuclear power generation being examples. Many Tea Party supporters harbor a similar distrust of stem-cell research, evolution, and the idea that global warming is man-made. A few especially radical New Leftists talked about going "back to the land" to escape the corruption of modern society; likewise, radical teabaggers talk about "going Galt" or becoming survivalists to escape from big government. Some have even compared Glenn Beck to Abbie Hoffman.[22]

At their core, however, both groupings believe in the fundamental purity and virtue of individual people, and that evil is introduced from above by corrupt authority and elites — Third World-destroying warmongers and thieving capitalists for the New Left, and socialist bureaucrats and Hollywood elitists for the Tea Party. Both groups dismiss the prior 30 years of liberal (then) or conservative (now) government as failing to meet standards of ideological purity. The New Left thought that the Democratic Party under Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson were all corporate sellouts and warmongers who were upholding the decadent capitalist system, while to the Tea Party, the GOP under Bush and Nixon, men they once revered as being conservative icons, were nothing more than deficit-spending socialists.[note 11] Most importantly, both the New Left and the Tea Party viewed "the establishment" as the enemy, wanted to return power to "the people," and start a revolution.

If the Tea Party is a modern-day New Left, then judging by history, this has foreboding consequences for the right and very welcome consequences for the left. In the late 1960s, while the left was spinning into such moonbattery and radicalism as the Weather Underground, the LaRouchies, and various conspiracy nuts, conservative intellectuals such as William F. Buckley Jr. and Russell Kirk were offering a sensible-sounding alternative to the crumbling New Deal consensus, while simultaneously attempting to purge the right of fringe groups like the John Birch Society as well as hardcore white supremacists and anti-Semites. Cue the triumphant election of Ronald Reagan.

Thanks to Reagan's influence, the conservative movement today has moved far to the right in the name of partisanship. Tax protesters and assorted denialist and conspiracy theories (including birthers and the militia movement) are all gaining sympathy, while Rush Limbaugh and Joseph Farah have become trusted names in news and commentary. Liberals, meanwhile, are growing increasingly weary of the rantings of Al Sharpton, the hard greens (while simultaneously seizing from them the banners of anti-racism and environmentalism), and of 9/11 conspiracy theorists, while more moderate, centrist to center-left leaders are becoming the public face of progressivism. If the Tea Party shoots itself in the foot the way the New Left did (and it's getting very close), then sane political thought in America may prevail in the years to come.

However, one key difference exists between the New Left and Tea Party. The New Left, even at its height, was alienated by most of the Democratic Party; even the liberal faction felt that they were too extreme. When the New Left briefly hijacked the Democratic Presidential campaign in 1972 by getting George McGovernWikipedia nominated, the result was one of the most famous electoral blowouts in history — the solidification of the Sixth Party SystemWikipedia — with large sections of the Democratic voting base (most crucially the unions) either staying home or supporting Tricky Dick as the lesser of two evils. The Tea Party, on the other hand, had been largely embraced by the Republican establishment in 2010 and onwards. While the New Left was a backlash against the Democratic leadership and base (i.e. the Dixiecrats and the "old" labor establishment), the Tea Party pretty much is the Republican base — religiously fundamentalist, ultra-libertarian on economics, xenophobic assholes, and jingoist voters.[23] Because of this, the Tea Party wrangled far more influence and power among GOP policymakers than the New Left ever did with the Democratic Party.

Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was something of an "anti-Establishment" performance propped up by oddball old-styled nationalists, Tea-Party leftovers, right-wing populists, and the enthusiastically offensive Alt-Right. Initial consensus doomed them to inevitable failure, but unfortunately they actually managed to take control of the presidential palace, not because they're actually popular per se (they lost the popular vote and only about 25% of Americans actually voted for them) but mainly because their opponent embodied the alignment of financial and cultural elites, and identity-based interest groups, ensconced in the administrative state that interacts with so many so negatively. The result of all this was… sub-optimal.

See also[edit]


  1. Although many groups are off limits to hateful stereotyping, Sixties radicals, hippies, environmentalists and Buddhists are still fair game — their punishment for having developed a sense of humor.
  2. Two of those four are still somewhat venerated, despite the fact that all four engaged in ruthless suppression of all possible human rights and often even mass murder.
  3. It explicitly was not holding up the USSR as a model; instead, it denounced the USSR early on as well.
  4. Read a transcript here
  5. The Black Panthers' protest style was deliberately militant but not violent, more for shock value; a typical protest had them marching with shotguns dressed in matching leather jackets and berets, chanting "The revolution has come. Off the pig! It's time to pick up the gun. Off the pig!" In a supreme irony, California's strongest gun control law at the time was signed by a noted actor specifically to disarm the Panthers and stop them from carrying firearms in public. The Panthers held a protest while the California legislature was debating this law, in which they held a press conference denouncing the "racist California legislature"'s attempt to violate the Second Amendment rights of blacks, and then marched into the California capitol building carrying shotguns — legal at the time. Bizarre, eh?
  6. As most members of SDS were white, they felt they lacked the authenticity and experience to try to organize non-whites.
  7. It has also been debated whether the liberal "Wisconsin school" of academic historical revisionism (William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kolko) is properly considered part of the New Left, although they have been labeled as such.
  8. For instance, this book tries to make the case that US cities are failing because the New Left took control of public services and unions, leading them to bankruptcy. Never mind that these very cities actually end up paying taxes to support the areas that the writer holds up as the productive parts of the country.
  9. Hi, France!
  10. Compare the people dressed in powdered wigs at Tea Party rallies to the people who nominated a pig for President in 1968 Chicago.
  11. Oh, you haven't burst out in anger yet?


  2. 2.0 2.1 Kirkpatrick Sale. 1973. SDS. New York: Vintage Books.
  3. John Birmingham, ed., 1970. Our Time Is Now: Notes From the High School Underground. New York: Bantam.
  4. Free (Abbie Hoffman). 1968. Revolution for the Hell of It. New York: Pocket Books. p. 13.
  5. n.a. The Cox Commission Report: Crisis At Columbia'. 1968. New York: Vintage Books. p.9
  6. Tariq Ali. 2005. Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties. London: Verso. p. 132, ISBN 978-1844670291
  7. Gordon Carr. 2010. The Angry Brigade: A History of Britain's First Urban Guerrilla Group. Oakland, CA: PM Press. ISBN 978-1604860498.
  8. "Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962". Michigan State University.
  9. David Gilbert. 2012. Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond. Oakland, CA: PM Press. Pp. 113-118.
  10. Rebecca N. Hill. 2008. Men, Mobs, and Law: Anti-Lynching and Labor Defense in U.S. Radical History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Pp. 268-269.
  11. Amy Sonnie and James Tracy. 2011. Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. ISBN 978-1-935554-66-0.
  12. See the Wikipedia article on 1968 Democratic National Convention.
  13. See the Wikipedia article on Columbia University protests of 1968.
  14. See the Wikipedia article on People's Park (Berkeley).
  15. Shin'ya Ono, "You Do Need A Weatherman," an account of how one anti-violent member of SDS became a Weatherman.
  16. Stephanie Abrams (May 1993) "A History of Feminist Activism at Miami, Oxford Campus". Miami University.
  17. "On global warming, conservatives have a blind spot — and liberals have tunnel vision", The Week
  18. Cantor loses, Boehner dines with friends, McCarthy scrambles, Washington Post
  19. The Right Gets Its '60s, The New York Times
  20. Don't believe us?
  21. The GOP's Grifter Problem, Slate
  22. "Glenn Beck is the new Abbie Hoffman", Salon
  23. When Extremism Goes Mainstream, The Atlantic