Re: [sixties-l] communes, self-improvement, selling out/was...generations

From: Marty Jezer (
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 22:18:39 CUT

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    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

    Marty Jezer  *  22 Prospect St. *  Brattleboro, VT 05301 * p/f  802 257-5644 

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