Re: [sixties-l] Re: student organizing...

From: William M Mandel (
Date: 10/10/00

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    You write that hardly anyone was able to predict the explosion of student activism of
    the '60s. I did not predict it, but I believe I recognized its signifiance earlier than
    anyone else, as far as I can determine. You will find the documentation in the chapter,
    "Honorable Beaters of Children..." in my autobiography, Saying No To Power,
    particularly pp. 373-374. Almost immediately after the San Francisco HUAC hearing in
    1960, I wrote Bill Sennett, a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: "It is important
    for your group to know that a new movement is under way that, I am absolutely
    convinced, will have a major impact on American life in the years just ahead....This is
    not a movement led by any traditional Left party, although these students obviously
    have very advanced ideas in the major areas of social life."
         Quoting my book: "A month later a pamphlet called Campus Rebels appeared, written
    by Al Richmond, editor of the Communist People's World. He had interviewed me and
    quoted me anonymously, thus:
        "'An older radical, who is acquainted with student leaders, said this movement
    might well spearhead a progressive democratic revival in American life, filling a
    vacuum that he believes has been created by the abdication of labor leadership and the
    ineffectiveness of existing radical groups.'"
                                                                    William Mandel
    John Campbell McMillian wrote:
    > Hey All,
    > I don't have time for a really long or cogent reply here, but I *do*
    > think we're seeing a genuine resurgance in campus activism, especially
    > around issues of corporate responsibility.  Indeed, it's probably not
    > too optimisic to label this latest upsurge a "movement."  Here at
    > Columbia, for example, students have launched campaigns against the
    > sweathshop conditions under which university apparel is made, held
    > globalization and world-bank teach-ins, protested the university's own
    > labor policies toward clerical workers, launched a campaing for socially-
    > responsible investing, and who knows what else.  Graduate students are
    > also beginnign to mobolize against corporate influence in higher
    > education, and we may see a pitched drive for a grad student union
    > before much longer.  And just last week (on a Friday night, no less!)
    > Ralph Nader spoke to an overflow crowd here, and hundreds couldn't even
    > get into the auditorium!  As you know, Nader's not always
    > the world's liveliest speaker, and throughout much of his talk he sounded
    > like a tired law professor.  But students responded overwhelmingly to his
    > anticorporate message, stomping, clapping, cheering, and giving him a
    > standing ovation! Anticorporate protests have also taken place at the
    > University of Michigan, the University Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins, Purdue,
    > Wesleyan, the University of Iowa, the University of Kentucky, SUNY-Albany,
    > Duke, Syracuse, Penn, Georgetown, and probably lots of other places I
    > don't know about.
    > One other, marginal point: Ted Morgan writes below that one of the
    > obstacles to student activism these days is "the spread of consumerism."
    > I'd argue that it's just the opposite - among many undergraduates,
    > mindless consumerism has come under the sharpest of critiques.  More and
    > more, students are reacting against symbols of corporate or consumer
    > culture, and taking an identifiably jaundiced attitude toward
    > chain-stores that litter the city (most notably, Starbuck's, the Gap,
    > and Barnes & Noble).
    > All this is of interest to me because I've just been reading about the
    > origins of the New Left.  It seems that hardly anyone was able to predict
    > the explosiong of student activism that took hold in the 1960's, but
    > now looking back on this retrospectively, historians have capably found
    > all kinds of things that presaged Sixties activism - the beats, Mad
    > magazine, existentialism, critical sociology, protests against in loco
    > parentis and HUAC, demographic shifts in the university, and so on.  I
    > know that our moderator would like to keep this list Sixties-based, but
    > I'd love to hear what others on this list think about the current
    > possibilities for an even broader-based movement.
    > Best,
    > John McMillian
    > On Tue, 10 Oct 2000,
    > Ted Morgan wrote:
    > > Paula asked (a LONG time ago, message-wise):
    > >
    > > >  In spite of the--very, very hopeful--activities the past year re WTO and re
    > > > various ecological issues, in fact other than an occasional expressions of "Oh
    > > > those dot.coms!" or "Hey, cool," very LITTLE political expression has come out
    > > > of campuses, at least
    > > > from what I've heard, recently.   But I'm not in the academic world.  What is
    > > > the sense of you on this list who are, on student political consciousness or
    > > > activity now?
    > >
    > > Overall, based on local campuses (about 6 in the Lehigh Valley, including my own
    > > conservative Lehigh University), there's the usual smattering of activist folks
    > > trying like hell to raise a little consciousness with relatively little impact on
    > > the campuses.  The difference from the prior two decades (with a few exceptions
    > > --e.g. Gulf War), it seems, is that there are, in fact, some visible issues &
    > > mobilizations OUT THERE going on which local student organizing can link with in
    > > their audience's minds.  It's just that there is a huge, and I do mean huge, set
    > > of institutionalized, long-socialized attitudes & perceptions that undermine
    > > this.  Things like: (a) economic anxiety, fed for about 25 years; (b) the spread
    > > of consumerism which has socialized people into an increasingly self-focused
    > > perspective -i.e. liberation means I'll dress how I please; (c) the spread of a
    > > market/sprawl society which has over 55 years reduced more and more the "places"
    > > where people can bump into each other, talk about politics &local concerns as a
    > > matter of conversation, etc. --i.e., the sense of place and community that can
    > > give rise to imagining collective empowerment of the sort that existed in the
    > > civil rights, black power, student, antiwar, womens' & ecology movements (etc.);
    > > and (d) the particular media-culture 'mythologies' about the 60s --namely that
    > > they were about a generation's experiences & attitudes and, by the way, they
    > > failed.
    > >
    > > Good question, and a tough nut to crack.
    > > Ted Morgan
    > >

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