The New Left - Staughton Lynd

Speaker at UM Sit-In, December 1966
Speaker at UM Sit-In, December 1966

An article by Staughton Lynd about the New Left of the 1960s.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on June 7, 2015

ABSTRACT: The American New Left is actually part of an international political tendency. Despite differences in form, student movements of the 1960's in the United States, West Europe, and Japan share common concerns: rejection of both capitalism and bureaucratic communism, anti-imperialism, and an activist orientation, violent or nonviolent. The main intellectual emphases of the American New Left appear to be antischolasticism, utopianism, and activism, as is illustrated in representative works by two authors whose ideas have greatly influenced the New Left: C. Wright Mills and Howard Zinn. The single most characteristic element in the thought-world of the New Left is the existential commitment to action, in the knowledge that the consequence of action can never be fully predicted; this commitment has survived all changes in political fashion. More concretely, the members of the New Left condemn existing American society as "corporate liberalism," and seek to replace it with "participatory democracy."

American New Left theorists, however, made the implicit assumption that the United States would not turn toward overt authoritarianism, overlooking the possibility that their own success in unmasking "corporate liberalism" would change the character of the situation and force the Establishment to feel a need for more vigorous controls. The New Left's assessment of American reality was, in this sense, not too negative, but too hopeful. The prospect is not bright, but the trend toward repression does not necessarily mean the end of the New Left. Its origins go back to the thought and action of resistance against the fascism of the 1930's and 1940's. Therefore, the spirit of resistance, perhaps even, possibly, of nonviolent resistance, may yet rise to the occasion

Originally appeared in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 382, Protest in
the Sixties (Mar., 1969)


The New Left.pdf (1.08 MB)