The only thing that I find a teensy bit erksome is that Matt Stoller appears to have misattributed it to himself. But I don't care because I know that, in his heart of hearts, Matt Stoller is giving me a huge compliment, and is therefore now my official A-List blog bitch.
Now that I have, once again, made it onto a highly ranked blog (even if it is only as an uncredited ghost writer) I feel I have earned the right to toot my own, rather impressive, horn somewhat so let me now take you through a tour of this peice, which I have to admit, is pretty fucking good, even for me.
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.
Now this is a great opening, the way I meshed the phrase "as we concurrently develop a vision for the country we want to live in." with it's overly jejune and just plain waffly "concurrently" with the next sentence's focus on "stuff", which I felt added a certain paradoxically jungian symbolic dynamic to what ever the hell the paragraph was actually about. Something about The Left and its swirly eddies, though what norbizness has to do with anything is a mystery to me, and why anyone should care about the ins and outs of his toilet's flushing activities is an even greater mystery (though I'm sure the International Transexual Toilet Rapists are involved somewhere in all this).
First I'd like to state a couple of assumptions. This is not a '1960s kidz' versus '2000 kidz' pissing contest.[Irony; it's an oldie, but a goodie] 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.[You heard it
herethere first folks!] 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.
Now you'll probably start to see why I'm just so fucking proud of this piece, note hte vacuous talk of "the 1960s", talking over and over again of some mythical "Left" which I know, and you know, and everyone with half a brain knows due to the basic facts of reality, that "The Left", as some cohesive well organised entity which can be viewed like some singular freak under this Big Top Circus Tent that can be found at, obviously, frikking Vegas, is a complete and utter fiction, thought up by the right so that they could scare a whole bunch of anti-semitic racist greedy kleptomaniac psychopathic pharisee pagan christian nutjobs who all want to be at the top of a heap of oppressive downpressing asshollery at the same time for different reasons and who basically don't like people at all, let alone people who remind them of themselves, in the same room and working together.
And the way I top all the lies and blatant bullshit off with this wonderful and constant repetition of how "The Left" has some old people in it (I don't say how I know this of course because the key with bullshit is to just state it as fact, and let reality catch up with you at some later date, if ever) and while this is quite frankly the most irrelevent and pointless statement in the history of irrelevent and pointless statements, it does give me the excuse to boast, fucking boast I tell yahs, about having been "at Yearly Kos", which is totally my generation's woodstock, complete with hardcore narcotics and shiftless men with too much hair lazing around painting their cocks in a wide variety of colors as a political statement.
But wait, there's more.
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.
I honestly don't know what I was on to reach this nirvana of ironic satire, the way I seamlessly ignore the fact that the "New Right" used the democrats to neuter the truly democratic activist culture that got shit done, the strange way I compare segregation and a culture of coat hanger abortions to a "radically higher economic risk for the middle class" (again, this is the hollowest of hollow retoric, where one is left to either ignore the vaguene emptiness of the statement or just go mad at the utterly pathetic bourgious self obsession I don like so many giant furry winter socks) and a level of inequality that... hasn't really changed much since forever.
But at least it's not actually legal to just sterilise black women for shits and giggles, too often, if they're not disabled, any more.
The Art! The Skill! To suggest that we ignore the one success story for progressive politics in recent history, to even go so far as to declare that the problem of the politicaly active and election ignoring activists, who took to the streets not the ballot boxes because their choices were between the parties of Nixon or Thurmond, and built a bullhorn through which the voice of the people could actually be heard in such a manner that the people were no longer forced to compromise eternally with the evil whims of the demons and repugs to achieve effectively nothing, but could begin to dictate terms down to the two parties, as it should always be in a true democracy, all to the end of shaping the nation into something that didn't consider over half of the population of the country sub-human scum who deserved to die bleeding from their crotchs, or at the end of a white man's rope.
To suggest that "their" (you know, "The 1960s Left's") problem, their fatal error, was that they did not join in on the little ping pong tournament the demons and the repugs play every four or so years, and play with peoples lives like it was all a high school football game, enough...
To say that, and to say it in so deadpanned a manner, to suggest it so casually.
Face facts folks, I am your god.
This is not a universally held assumption.
Again, the understatement that emphasises so deliciously the absurdity of what I suggest! Genius!
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?
Indeed, I close my eyes and cannot see them, where have these DFHs 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.
Ah, triangulation, a word so sweet, so delightful in bouquet, flush with color and pleasing to the eye, one would almost overlook it's devilish evil, it's subtle, cancerous nature, to say "capitulate", to say "sell my allies down the river", to say "screw you, I got mine", none of those would suffice, for this, this masterpeice, to mince words so absolutely to the end of flattering and protecting the very people I briefly pretend to be castigating.
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.
For did not Jane Fonda sit at the NV AA battery and laugh at the thought of gunning down our brave napalm dropping boys in their fabulous flying machines? How dare anyone care for this "cultural conflict"? What good a living womb? Who cares for the well hung black man?
And some even denigrated the electoral process! The Gall! The infamy, to reject a process for selecting monsterous plutocrats in favor of street level democracy in its rawest form!
I know MLK jumped the shark with his disgusting pacifism, I know that there is no hero like the FBI and ATF agents who strode with their heads held high on the reservations that they weren't welcome on, doing God's work and spreading the "Right Kind Of Democracy™" to the Wrong Kind of People, without thanks or encouragement.
The way I focus not on the truly monsterous aspects of the Old Left, the people who felt they could give up the rights of other people for inclusion into that democratic system, the stalinists, the vici left and people who actually did declare the MLK had jumped the shark with his traitorous anti-war rhetoric while wishing those uppity negros would just settledown and accept the occasional murder and rape of their fmaily and friends as a neccesary compromise that needed to be paid so that they could deal with the White Devil himself in the hopes that the boot on their neck.
30 years ago america still had legal eugenics programs being carried out on minorities and the disabled, 30 years ago rape was legal in more states than not.
And I suggest that the problem with the movements that put an end to that was that they said fuck the system and did what needed to be done without caring about the niceties of a system designed to mediate such excessive attempts at change, to mediate into insignificance actual democracy and replace it with the bastard erzatz immitation we still deal with - which enables only those like Kerry, the Clintons and Liebermanto into office because they are the ones who are least likely to do anything good or right with their position - I fear my satire may have reached too far here, was I too obvious? Surely no one could take such a doublethink style retconning of history as anything but the most utterly hyperbolic satire?
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.
My satirical skills began to fade here, alas, see the low grade cry of "but where were all the liberal bloggers in the 1960s?" A tad purple, as the saying goes, too ludicrous, far too farcical.
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.
ugh, I'm really losing it, pretending that liberals had any control over the media from that period that I, in the guise of a dipshit-no-nothing-asswipe-with-the-historical-knowledge-of-a-goldfish-liberal, might actually have knowledge of, that the media sources through which The Great Glorious Ever Noble Left would counter such propaganda would be known to me, a mere "28" year old who probably wouldn't touch a pamphlet in case it had Prole-cooties on it even if it was covered in chocolate and balanced on the six pack of an insanely hawt guy.
Much too much too purple.
he 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?
I mean, who could possibly forget the terrible toll the "crack epidemic" took on urban america? Paging Bill Cosby, Pagin Bill Cosby...
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.
In case you're wondering, I really do blame no one but myself for the 1970s oil crisii.
I can't begin to describe how sorry I am about that.
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.
Now that I reread that, I realise that I don't actually know what noise a carp makes.
If anyone knows, please leave an appropriate comment.
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.
I'm starting to get back into form here, note the way I, after putting opposition to the vietnam war forth as a pathetically insignificant thing next to The War on Poverty (who's end goal involved some muttering about "social mobility" and "the american dream", iirc) I then declare that the period which saw the end to the daily slaughter of hundreds of americans and thousands of vietnamese was the ultimate example of The Left's Failure, while the rightwing, which already had total control over government and corporations, suddenly noticed that, SHIT! they hadn't taken over the government and corporations yet.
Yes, Declaring that the corporatists "suddenly" turned their jaundiced eyes towards control over the corporate world, now That's good satire folks.
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.
Note that last bit: "...it's the New Right or the radical organizers of the 1930s who are the right model."
How cna I not be proud of it? Out of a huge waffling, rambling, vacuous and historically inaccurate steaming pile of cowpat, I manage to actually sneak in an endorsement of the nazi party in there, while continuing the theme I've kept up through the rest of it all where I pretend that politics is an end unto itself, and that the concrete societal changes that this The Left I keep talking about achieved was unto nothing because they didn't care about engaging in politics that didn't actually achieve their goals - which was that societal change I speak so badly of.
They created a movement that allowed people to be liberal or conservative even after they started families,
*Yawn* Feminists hate families, it's an off hand thing, but probably a bit too much again.
to build their participation in the public sphere into their economics and their lives.
I'm making a direct reference to the old economists faction of the pre-revolution russian communists btw, don't worry if you don't get that, it's a leninist in-joke.
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.
Well it is, you would be too if your near future involved a phase transition from solid to liquid followed by being peed in by copious fish.
And if that isn't a metaphor for all sorts of things in american politics, I don't know what is.