At 01:07 PM 6/7/2000 -0700, William Mandel, in explaining the decline of
the new left after Orangeburg and Kent State, wrote:
> Among whites, who were free to retreat >from activism, they moved into
communes, self->improvement, and >making a buck
To be sure there some hippy-dippy communes that represented political
escapism, but many communards kept up their political involvement in the
rural areas that they settled and opened up a host of new envionmental
(especially agricultural) and anti-nuclear issues. Mass direct action
against nuclear energy, initiated by the Clamshell Alliance, began at a
commune in Western, Mass. And there's much much more to this story. The
cliche that the communal movement was a retreat from politics just doesn't
Moreover, I would not dismiss the self-improvement component either. The
new left self-destructed, in part, because of the ego-tripping of the
leaders and the growing lack of respect we had for each other.
Understandable, in a sense, we were in a cauldron we were not prepared for,
in way over our heads. People need to be "centered" to think objectively
and to organize effectively. Individually, and as a movement, we lost our
center. People quit the movement to get their heads together not to escape
from politics but because the political process within the movement was not
working and they felt they had to step away from it and figure out why it
had become such a horror.
The feminist movement was essential to all of this, a big big subject that
others, I'm sure, will tackle.
As for the third component, making a buck; well yes, many activists were
living hand-to-mouth on subsistence wages for ten or so years. We dropped
out of schools and abandoned careers for the movement. People were having
kids (and couples were breaking up). Making a buck is an economic
necessity. Going back to school or getting a serious job is not "selling
out." I would love to see research data on this but I suspect that very
few activists "sold out," (and we'd have to define that term) in the
seventies ... or later.
-- Marty Jezer * 22 Prospect St. * Brattleboro, VT 05301 * p/f 802 257-5644
Author: Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (Basic Books) Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press) The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960 (South End Press) Rachel Carson [American Women of Achievement Series] (Chelsea House) Check out my web page: http://www.sover.net/~mjez To subscribe to my Friday commentary, simply request to be put on my mailing list. It's free!
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jun 08 2000 - 01:04:11 CUT