Re: Genesis of the sixties

Julia Stein (
Thu, 30 May 1996 13:07:21 -0400

> The sixties left neither an
>organization, nor any widely accepted leaders. We bequeathed to the young
>nothing to work with, not even hope for a better future.
> Sure, there was some progress. Martin

Martin's post seems less about the "genesis" ("genesis" is origins or
beginnings) of the 1960s than about the "demise" of the 1960s. I interpret
Martin as saying that in order to save civilization we need a change in
consciousness to avoid technological catastrophe and that the 1960s failed
to produce this change in conciousness.
A discussion about the demise of the 1960s political movements
would be good.I only know one book, Todd Gitlin's The Sixties, that
analyzes the demise of the 1960s political movements. Does anyone know
another other books or articles or analyses? Gitlin, an early president of
SDS, argues that SDS self-destructed from within in 1969.
In April of 1969 I was a young reporter with an underground
newspaper in Los Angeles and got my first assignment from the editor to
interview SDS. I had neither been an SDS member nor had any journalism.
After some phone calling, I found out there were two SDSes and they weren't
talking to each other. Each claimed to be the real SDS. So I got back on
the phone to my editor and said, "There are two SDSes. What am I to do?"
The editor said, "Oh my god, they're splitting. Don't do an
interview, write a news story."
I said, "I don't know how."
He said, "Ok, do an interview."
So I tried to interview them. Mike Klonsky, a former SDS
president, lived near me in L.A. I got his phone number. When I called, I
spoke to the black houseworker who didn't know where he was. Klonsky
wouldn't talk to me so I wound up interviewing his younger brother who
spouted a lot of big phrases at me. After I did this interview I was upset
as I didn't like all the big phrases he used which seemed like so much
gobbeldeygook so I threw out my interview and wrote an article criticizing
SDS's bad prose. A month later in Chicago SDS split up. Gitlin says that
when SDS was splitting up SDS publications abounded with atrocious prose
and "that they were bad writing was essential to their purpose. Their
leaden abstraction served to distract from intractable realities--above
all, the widespead public distate for revolutionary violence." (Gitlin
Anyway, as historians, teachers and students of the 1960s, why and
how did 1960s political movements end? Who has written about this? Julie