Old Left, New Left, What's Left? - Paul Mattick, Jr.

Paul Mattick Jr. takes a look at the 'New Left' and student movement at the end of the 1960s.

NB this is a longer version of the text that appeared in Root & Branch #1.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 7, 2021

The American student movement which called itself the New Left came and went with the Sixties. Its disappearance is no doubt denied by individuals and political groups whose feelings of and claims to social significance rest on participation in "the Movement." It is uncontestable, however, that not only the organizations-above all, SDS-of the New Left, but the mass student activity in which they grew, are things of the past. Attitudes which shaped and developed from this activity have remained. I think large numbers of students and young people in general are more cynical about American society than were their counterparts in the Fifties, tend to be antiwar, and don't like the cops. There are students who think of themselves as revolutionaries all over the country; many of whom move around through the small Left organisations. But the last few years have seen a practical conservatism among most students. If large-scale student leftism begins again, it will be in a new social context; the New Left will live again only in a newer Left. By calling itself the New Left, the student movement of the Sixties raised the question of its relation to the radical movements of the past. Its disappearance poses the question of the nature of the New Left also in relation to the social struggles to come.


The emergence of leftish movements in the Sixties appeared paradoxical. The fifteen years since World War II had been hailed by an American president as "the greatest upsurge of economic well-being in history" for America and for world capitalism as a whole. As a result all social groups were supposed to have a stake in the well-being of the system. Class conflict and with it divisive "ideology" purportedly come to an end. The continuing presence racism and poverty in the "affluent" society, the perpetual imperialist warfare making good use of what had become permanent war economy, and a continuing level of economic difficulty-seen through the economists' glass darkly as the dilemma of high employment versus price stability-appeared as sore spots in a basically healthy organism. Racial discrimination and poverty would no doubt vanish with the continual advance of prosperity, supplemented by government programs. The warfare state forced on the system by the Cold War situation would be controlled as Soviet aggressiveness and/or American paranoia gave way to reason and Realpolitik. The vagaries of the Phillips Curve relating unemployment to inflation merely diagrammed the limiting conditions of a prosperous and growing economy.

From the vantage point of the early Seventies the illusory character of this view is evident. Racism and poverty remain as before, while the real wages of white workers have been sliding downwards. Despite peace agreements war continues in Southeast Asia, and threatens to erupt in Latin America and the Middle East. Simultaneous inflation and high unemployment bear testimony to the end of the postwar economic stability. The problem spots of the Sixties are today more easily identifiable as manifestations of deeper problems- whose solutions are not so apparent.

The post-war prosperity might in fact be better characterised as a pseudo-prosperity, from the point of view of the classical capitalist economy. While it has been possible for large enough numbers of workers to achieve levels of real income sufficient to maintain social equilibrium, this has been accomplished since the Twenties only thanks to steadily increasing government interventions into the economy. The private sector of the economy has not grown fast enough to make possible a high level of unemployment under conditions both profitable to capital and bearable to the workers. Thus the program of government-sponsered production begun with the New Deal and World War II had to be continued to "take up the slack."

But only the private sector is the capitalist economy proper (as "right-wing" economists never tire of pointing out). Capitalism developed as that system in which productive activity is organised by owners of capital with the aim of making profits. Employment depends not on the desire to produce goods that people need, but on capitalists' ability to sell at a profit the products made by those they employ. Since goods and services sold to the government are paid for out of funds taxed or borrowed from the private economy, apparent profits made in such transactions in reality represent only the redistribution of profits already made by capital as a whole, to the benefit of those corporations favoured with contracts.

Based on the steady expansion of the government sector, the prosperity of the post-Depression "mixed economy" therefore represents not a true capitalist boom, but rather a response to the inability of the economy to generate a rate or profit sufficient for an accelerated rate of growth. Because its role is played outside of, and in lieu of, the investment-profit-expanded investment cycle of the capitalist system, the expanding "public" sector, while successful so far in maintaining social stability, cannot solve the essential problem of declining profitability. Indeed, it even accentuates it, as eventually the expansion of non-market, non-productive (of profit) production must inhibit the growth of a private sector growing at a slower rate, even while it is necessary if the private sector is to be allowed to exist at all.

The limits of economic growth are also limits of social integration.1 Throughout the nineteenth century the profitability of capital was high enough to make possible a trend rise in both capital holdings and working-class living standards. The stagnating capitalism of our day, however, threatens a future of deep economic depression, and or renewed world war. And during the post-war decades it set bounds to the possibilities of social reform. A high and, for a decade or so, rising standard of living was reserved for a minority of workers. The limitations on the expansion of both the "public" and the private sector made full employment out of the question. Blacks and whites pushed out of the South, for instance, found low-paying jobs or no jobs at all in the Northern cities to which they moved. In the suburbs inhabited by "affluent" white workers as well as in the increasingly black and Spanish-speaking central cities, young people without the necessity to look for work or without jobs to look for were offered nothing but regimented boredom in the schools and the commercial culture of a stagnating society outside of school.

Ten years after the war (while the war-established world order cracked and shifted in Eastern Europe and the Third World), the instability of the American social peace made its appearance m various forms. The gang violence and rock 'II' roll music which expressed the frustrations of urban working-class young people; the civil rights movement among Southern blacks; the cultural revolt of beatniks and hipsters and the obsession with folk music among middle-income youth-these were harbingers of a coming "rebirth of ideology."


Like every group in the population, students experienced capitalism's adjustment to its new conditions of existence in the form of particular changes in their mode of life. These have been due both to the continuation of processes operative throughout the history of capitalist society and to new features particularly related to the mixed economy. The general effect has been that of a simultaneous growth in numbers and deteriorization in position of white-collar work, which in turn has affected the nature of higher education. Changes in technology, if not amounting to a "new industrial revolution," have resulted in a growing proportion of white-collar labour at all levels of industry, from Research and Development to production proper. The concentration and centralisation of capital have continued as a main trend of capitalist development, with the attendant elimination of the old petite bourgeoisie, in production and services alike. Multitudes of "independent entrepreneurs" or their sons and daughters came to find themselves in the position of wage-workers, in fact if not in principle (with the notable exceptions of the professions of medicine and ii law, which have so far staved off their reorganisation on industrial lines, though this too is changing). The same concentration and centralisation process spawned an enormous financial and industrial bureaucracy as more and more managerial and technical people became salaried employees. Finally, the growth of government interference in the economy and society necessitated a growing state bureaucracy, which has been the main contributor to the increasing white-collar sector of the working class.

All of this brought with it a tremendous expansionof higher education (a continuation of the process whereby the Industrial Revolution brought into being a standardly skilled and socialised manual-labor force). This again swelled the demand for white-collar labour, as the enlargement and multiplication of educational institutions implied an increase in teaching and administrative personnel. The students' experience was shaped both by the futures for which they could see themselves preparing and by the related reorganisation of the colleges and their adaptation to new functions.

College became a point of production of the masses of white-collar labour needed by industry, government, and the schools themselves. The lower ranks of the non-manual labour force were processed by the hundred thousand in state and "community" colleges. The elite universities and colleges too were transformed by this process. From "communities" of young gentlemen and their mentors, for the acquisition of the liberal education which as social skills went along with what business skills were taught, they became bureaucratised structures processing ever-larger numbers of students. At the same time, the needs of the economy which gave rise to the "multiversity" led to the addition to its educate functions those of being service centres for both industry and government.

The dominant ideology promulgated by the university remained that of neo-liberalism, the classical political doctrine with some alterations covering the advance of Keynesian economic policies: free enterprise with equal opportunity and reasonable success for all; freedom within the law made by a pluralist-democratic government of, by, and for the people; the ability of the welfare state to mitigate all social problems on the road to their final solution, This ideology jibed with the expectations of the young people who entered the upper level schools in the early Sixties; they assumed that college degrees would open the way to creative, responsible, leadership positions in the construction and administration of the Great Society at the New Frontier. Alas, it was not to be.

Already in 1949 economist Seymour Harris warned on the basis of labour market studies that America was producing more college graduates than could be absorbed into the occupations they would expect to fill. Despite the vast demand for college graduates, this is what happened.2 The hierarchy of degrees, an extension of grade school certificate and diploma, served as a means of job stratification, as employers systematically restricted classes of jobs to degree holders, despite the "over-qualification" of college graduates for the majority of these jobs discovered by Department of Labour studies.3 Whatever the (no doubt negligible) value of such studies, the typical college graduate of the 1960s faced a job which required a certain amount of background information and the ability to manipulate concepts, but which was nonetheless largely repetitive And uncreative. As a 1968 conference on the problems of scientific and technical employees and professionals concluded, "as their numbers increase, the uniqueness of the individual and his talents will decrease. "4 What holds for scientific workers holds also for the thousands working in government offices and in the university itself.

Far from shaping the expanding wonder-world of post-war capitalism, students experienced the positions awaiting them as unsatisfying slots into which school channelled them. The social tasks of the university-training and channeling-naturally were reflected in its own functioning. Bureaucratised and limited in its own right, campus life could not meet the desires of those who had been assured that a college education would provide the key to a satisfactory way of living. The conflict between the values inculcated by parents and systematised in the classroom and the realities of modern capitalism could only grow increasingly apparent to students, given by their very position of privilege an opportunity for some degree of critical examination of the world.


"We are people of this generation," the Port Huron Statement (the founding document of SDS) declared in 1962, "bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit. . . . Although mankind desperately needs revolutionary leadership, America rests in national stalemate, its goals ambiguous and tradition-bound instead of informed and clear, its democratic system apathetic and manipulated rather than 'of, by, and for the people.'" Believing that "the fundamental qualities of life on the campus reflect the habits of society at large," the roots of social stagnation were diagnosed as the apathy of the public, bred by a break in 'the vital democratic connection . . . between the mass and the several elites" of business and government, who ruled impersonally and irresponsibly. The response required as the assumption of responsibility for the initiation and organisation of social change within the country, which would allow America to play a progressive leadership role in the industrialisation of the world.5 Students moved "out of apathy" in response to a range of issues: Caryl Chessman's execution; HUAC persecution of leftists; U.S. aggression against Cuba; above all, the threat of thermonuclear destruction and the fact of racism. The anti-bomb movement produced the first national student demonstration, bringing some 7,000 people to Washington, D.C. in 1961. (This was also the first issue to unite students and young people on an international scale.) The threat of future destruction proved to be but the tip of an iceberg of daily catastrophe with the "discovery" of poverty and the spotlight cast on racism by the civil rights movement, which itself was revitalised by the activity of students.

The crude material life problem facing the increasing numbers of black students is not hard to grasp: education or no, to white (i.e., most) employers all blacks looked alike, and in a stagnant economy blacks remained the "last hired-first fired." A black with a college degree was likely to do far less well in the world than an educated white and many uneducated whites. The fate of black students was thus objectively tied to the fate of blacks in America generally. At the same time, the industrialisation of the South and the migration of the rural population into segregated cities, North and South, was shaking up the system of racist law and order evolved since the Civil War. In the context of the racial ferment of the Fifties, the contradiction between, the rising aspirations of black college students and the realities of their position in society emerged in a politicisation of black students, especially in the South, where NCC was formed in 1960.6

Hundreds of white students worked with the civil rights movement in Northern cities and in the South. The black movement, in addition, provided a model for attempts of white student activists to organise the Northern urban poor, especially whites, in the Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP) initiated by SDS in 1963. Despite the attacks made by both SNCC and SDS on "the Establishment" in general and the Kennedy regime in particular, the projects of both groups did not transcend the limits of the New' Frontier. It is characteristic of the activist spirit of the time, for instance, that the Northern Student Movement (a white civil rights auxiliary) devoted its energy, apart from fund-raising and desegregating projects, to tutoring ghetto children-i.e., aiding the black poor to climb the supposed educational ladder to success. Aside from its own good works, the movement was consciously oriented towards the Federal government as the mechanism of change; its aim was to organise social forces which would compel the liberals to keep their promises.
With the ERAP program, Richard Rothstein, a participant, explains,

SDS still believed in the possibility of change within the framework of America's formally representative political institutions. ERAP's goal was to stir these institutions, to reverse the corruption of established liberal and trade union forces.7

It was believed that these forces, under pressure from ERAP-organized groups and other "new insurgencies" would demand that resources be transferred from the cold-war arms-race to the creation of a decentralised, democratic, interracial welfare state at home. This program remained in the air breathed by the New Left throughout the Sixties. The orientation towards the allocation of government spending and the legislative energy shows up in the long-term coexistence among the new leftists of the call for "participatory democracy" and radical social change with an attachment to the Democratic Party.

In the South, the initial emphasis on desegregating public facilities gave way to a concentration on voter registration and education, a program oddly hailed by the Port Huron Statement as "perhaps the first major attempt to exercise the conventional instruments of political democracy in the struggle for racial justice." The goal was both the exercise of political power at the local level and pressuring Washington to pass and implement civil rights legislation. (The summer, 1964 voter registration project was even seen by some as a tool to provoke federal military intervention into the South and with it a "New Reconstruction.")
Furthermore, again in the words of the Port Huron Statement,

Linked with pressure from Northern liberals to expunge the Dixiecrats from the ranks of the Democratic Party, massive Negro voting in the South could destroy the vicelike grip reactionary Southerners have on the Congressional legislative process.8

Thus black voter registration was a key to the "redirection of national priorities" called for by SDS; the political possibilities of the black vote were attested to by the quiet funding of voter registration projects by Kennedy Democrats. The 1964 registration campaign culminated in the organisation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was to represent blacks within the national Party. Despite the rejection of the MFDP by the 1964 convention, the Democratic Party, as the main organisation of "liberal forces" remained a focus for the New Left. In 1964, for instance, many members of SDS took the position of "Part of the Way with LBJ." In 1965 a group of editors of the journal Studies on the Left could write about the irrelevance of the alternatives of working within the Democratic Party or independent political action, as

"the new movements which give us hope are realigning the Democratic Party even though they often work outside the Party and their values go far beyond those of the Democratic leadership."9

The concentration of interest on the liberal reform wing of the Establishment had its counterpart in the moral-humanist basis of the ideology of the early New Left. While SNCC in 1960 sought "a social order of justice permeated by love"10 SDS in 1963 expressed the hope for

"human freedom. We care that men everywhere be able to understand, express, and determine their lives in fraternity with one another. . . . Our quest is for a political and economic order in which power is used for the widest social benefit and a community in which men can come to know each other and themselves as human beings in the fullest sense."11

Or as Carl Oglesby, then president of SDS, put it in 1965 at an antiwar demonstration, the issue was changing the corporate system

"not in the name of this or that blueprint or 'ism,' but in the name of simple human decency and democracy and the vision that brave and wise men saw in the time of our own Revolution. "12

In the beginning, then, in accord with the social experience of those who made up the student left, the destruction wrought by the capitalist system was experienced through the shroud of the liberal ideology, and opposed in the name of the promises-liberty, equality, fraternity-with which that system had begun.

In the confrontation of the system with its own ideology, the latter had slowly to give way. The experience of white volunteers in the voter registration projects in the South was especially powerful. Finding themselves shot at, with some of their comrades killed, they discovered a world of social violence they had not known existed. They were beaten by cops as Federal marshals looked on, then sentenced to jail by Kennedy-appointed judges; they, rather than the KKK, were investigated by the FBI. Nationally, those who supported Johnson against the right-wing and war-prone Goldwater were rewarded with the bombing of North Vietnam and the addition of new thousands of troops to those dispatched by Kennedy to Indochina. The ERAP projects met with frustration after frustration in an economy which could not provide "jobs or income now." The liberal forces did not support the wished-for "interracial movement of the poor" (which anyway was not coming into existence), so that the long-term aim of redistributing federal spending from military to welfare and peaceful employment programs went nowhere. The New Leftists therefore found themselves on their own. They began to conceive the aim of community organising as political education: the experience of struggle for simple but ungranted needs would lead to radicalisation of the people involved. Yet while by the beginning of 1965 "grass-roots organising" was seen as a radical alternative to working with the liberals, an objective, if not subjective, continuity coexisted with the break. Carl Oglesby expressed the position succinctly in the speech quoted above:

We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed.Itwill not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to change it. Those allies of ours in the government-are they really our allies? If they are, then they don't need advice, they need constituencies; they don't need study groups, they need a movement. And if they are not, then all the more reason for building that movement with a most relentless conviction.13

Among black activists, the defeat of SNCC's attempt to organise rural blacks and the general failure of the civil rights movement to get results beyond token desegregation led to attempts to build political and economic organisations based on the acceptance of segregation. The shift in the colour of the cities' populations required a realignment of ethnically organised political forces, however reluctantly this was admitted by local machines; in addition the construction of a Democratic black vote continued on a national scale. Black nationalist ideology was not only ~ response to the failure of the civil rights movement but facilitated the fudging of class contradictions within the black population. The result was a certain degree of integration of black "community leaders" into various levels of the political power structure, while massive rioting was met with some semblance of Federal aid. "Black power"-for all its inheritance of the ambiguities and ambivalence imposed by American capitalism throughout its history on the struggles of blacks for better conditions of life-had therefore some practical meaning, ranging from "black culture" enclaves in the colleges, to local political deals, to the social-work and/or electorally-oriented activity of "revolutionary" groups in several cities.
0The white activists, in contrast, had no organic connection with the groups they were trying to organise, and little of practical importance to offer them. The social changes needed were more profound than they had seemed at first, while what they were and so the means to achieve them were immensely unclear.

"By the winter of 1965," as Richard Rothstein wrote, "if you asked most ERAP organisers what they were attempting, they would simply have answered, 'to build a movement.' "14

But although they had come up against a practical impasse, the New Left organisers had discovered in left politics a realm of activity in which they seemed to have creative and perhaps' history-making parts to play. This sense of work fit for their capacities (together with the camaraderie tying together the small number of militants) was a great deal of what kept the movement going as it turned from the attempt to pressure liberals to a vaguely conceived social movement against "corporate liberalism."

With the failure of its original aims, ERAP fell apart in 1965. At the same time the antiwar movement developed rapidly in the colleges, spurred by the bombing of Vietnam, the dispatch of large numbers of American troops, and the abolition of student draft deferments. Attempts were made to transfer this movement off campus, by adding agitation around the draft to local issues. Antiwar activists came up against the rigidity of the system in the same way that the SNCC and ERAP organisers had. Beginning with a belief that draft resistance, demonstrations, and/or voting for peace candidates would end the war, the total failure of their efforts forced them to see their activities as important for their educational and "polarising" effect, and to think in terms of "movement building" for basic social change.

The Port Huron Statement announced the theme of "bringing people out of isolation and into community"; as the enemy came to be seen as not "apathy" (or even the Dixiecrats) but "the system," the community to be organised took shape as a counter-community. For some, this meant the construal of community organising in terms of concepts adopted from the anti-imperialist ideology of the Third World. Blacks and other ethnic groups were joined by youth, freaks, women, gays as would-be communities. Closer to home, the New Lefts call for "alternative institutions" drew on the same desire for satisfying personal and social relations visible in the various therapeutic, sensitivity-training, etc., businesses frequented by middle- and upper-income people, and in basic themes of the media- and commerce-structured manifestation of disaffiliation called the "youth culture." Rick Margolies spoke for many when he answered the question, "What do we do when we're white and affluent, in a world of starvation and coloured revolution?" with a program that began with restructuring personal relationships through communal living:

As we come together and restructure our relationships, we create the germ cells of a renewed social organism, growing from the ground up, into the institutions which sit heavy on our lives.15

Similarly, counter-institutions like "underground" papers could be seen as employing "political guerrilla tactics in the face of mass society" (or, in the jargon of the late Sixties, of "white, male Amerika") "in which enclaves of freedom are created here and there in the midst of the orthodox way of life, to become centres of protest, and examples to others.16 "Weatherman's pitiful attempts at terrorism can be seen as the dead end to which the idea of confrontation of the system from a point outside it was driven in the absence of an oppositional social movement.

An alternate model for the Movement (essentially a revival of the Communist Party Program of the Thirties) was presented by the Progressive Labor Party, a Maoist split from the CP which began a conscious effort to capture SDS in 1965. Despite the difference in style of political pronouncements, the specific focus on "trade union work" among blue-collar workers, and the orientation towards a Marxist-Leninist Party, PL had enough in common with its opponent factions within the SDS national leadership to make possible a long struggle for supremacy within SDS, until the organisational fabric parted under the strain.

What united all factions of the left was the conception of their relationship to actual or fantasised communities as organizers-after the example of trade unionists and social workers-rather than as "fellow students" or workers with a particular understanding of a situation shared with others, and ideas of what to do about it. Despite the disagreement over the primary target for organising-unemployed, blue-collar workers, white-coIlar workers, dropout youth-in each case the "community" was seen as a potential "constituency" (or, in PL's language, "base"). The radicals saw themselves as professional revolutionaries, a force so to speak outside of society, organising those inside on their own behalf. Thus the activist played the part reserved in liberal theory for the state, a point not to be neglected in the attempt to understand the drift of the New Left from an orientation to liberal governmental reform to leninist-stalinist concepts of socialism.


Most bizarre, in rereading position papers of the Sixties, is the reference to students as a constituency to be organised. What this signified was a failure of the New Left, particularly in its later stages, to understand and come to terms with its own social roots. Despite the emphasis given in the account above to community organising, the left was first and foremost a phenomenon born in the groves of academe. Although activists dropped out of school to organise, for periods or for good (though many who left "for good" are returning as the Seventies begin), the base of the movement was the student population. The mass demonstrations were peopled by students and the mass actions of the New Left were student demonstrations.

The Berkeley revolt of 1964 is the exception that proves the rule. This first campus uprising was the only sustained majoritarian one, and the only one squarely on student issues. It originated with civil-rights activists who raised the demand for free speech when forbidden by university administrators to hand out leaflets on campus. Yet, as Mario Savio put it, while the struggle for civil rights provided a "reservoir of outrage at the wrongs done to other people . . . such action usually masks the venting, by a more acceptable channel, of outrage at the wrongs done to oneself." The Free Speech Movement quickly involved masses of students because it expressed not so much the political pre-occupations of the radicals as general student dissatisfaction with the nature of the "multiversity." As one commentator put it

The students' basic demand is a demand to be . . taken into account when decisions concerning their education and their life in the university community are being made. When one reviews the history of the Free Speech Movement, one discovers that each new wave of student response to the movement followed directly on some action by the administration which neglected to take the students, as human beings, in to account, and which openly reflected an attitude that the student body was a thing to be dealt with, to be manipulated.17

Of course, the problem was not in reality the attitude of the administration, but the fact of the new status of students, who are no more simply "human beings" than anyone else but people in a particular social position.
Throughout the Sixties, radicals generally succeeded in maintaining their demands as the apparent focus of university activity. But despite the claims of activist leaders to have "organised" student protests around political issues-racism, the war-calling for student "service to the people," the large-scale actions like those at Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, S.F. State drew their power from the student frustration with the institutions through which they experienced the society against whose most flagrant abominations this power was focused. The growth of campus antiwar feeling attendant on the abolition of student draft deferments is only an obvious example, as is the fact that student involvement typically came in response to the entrance of police on campus, rather than to the original political issue. (As the International Werewolf Conspiracy put it in a leaflet at Berkeley once, "The issue is not the issue.") The largest student action, the national strike of 1970, arose from the combination of the public expansion of the war into Cambodia with the National Guard shooting of four white students. (The killings at Jackson State were not much of a new departure for the forces of law and order.) As a popular tract of the time put it, white students turned out to be "niggers" too, if privileged ones. And they didn't like it.

For the very real reasons mentioned above, black students could not only feel a moral call to struggle for the underprivileged, then could feel themselves to be part of the discriminated against. Thus their political activity with no strain combined a "black community" orientation with attention to student problems. They fought for issues which involved a real ameliorization of their position: both by contesting discrimination and, in the academic version of black power, by creating in "black studies" an academic sphere in which simultaneously white racism could be fought and careers made. (Here again there is a certain parallel with the on-campus women's movement.) The different positions of white and black students made sometimes for odd effects: as at Columbia in 1968 when the blacks negotiated separately and successfully with the administration, while white students continued the struggle into bloody fighting against police-over Columbia's racism policies (among other issues). The fundamental demand of the whites-to escape proletarianization-could not be met; black students had practical demands (in addition to the vaguer ones for "freedom" and "power") which could be.

Aside from the blacks, other minority groups, and, later, women, university reform was by and large the purlieu of those whom the radicals derogated as liberals, and in fact remained a realm of official committees and other forms of co-optation. For a student movement, the New Left was remarkably uninterested in theoretical work, and shared the low intellectual standards of American university life. Nothing remotely approaching the German "critical university"-the attempt to work out systematically a critique of an alternative to the content of bourgeois education, along with an attack on the official forms of education and structures of student life-developed in the American movement. Even in the brief period of the "student syndicalism" strategy in SDS, campaigning for student power was largely a tactic for getting students involved in confrontations with school and state authorities, which was to lead to student radicalisation and transformation into movement militants and organisers.

Thus though the New Left represented the political stirrings of students as a social group in response to its problems in life, the understandings and modes of action developed by the movement's activists bore the most part only unconscious testimony to that fact.

"Historical self-consciousness means the attempt to define ourselves as part of a developing social force, to develop concrete explanations about its origins, to project its growth and development, and to demonstrate and articulate its needs and values."18

Such a self-consciousness was not worked out by the New Left. And, in practice, the growth of opposition to the status quo on the part of white students was expressed through attention to issues removed from their own immediate experience and interests-issues about the interests either of some other group in society or of society as a whole. Insofar as the university was an object of organised attack, it was typically with reference to the academy's direct services to capitalism, and its impact on other groups of social victims, rather than to the situation of the students themselves. This was both a strength and a weakness of the student movement. It encouraged the elaboration of a critique of society as such, dealing with features of the system which do not directly confront students, but which were hardly discussed outside of the student left. But it also obscured the nature of the social changes in response to the necessity of which the New Left had arisen, and therefore of the students' potential part in making these changes.

In part the abstract way in which social problems appeared to the student left was due to the circumstance that students are not involved in the production process but are only in training for it. Their problems are not yet the problems of the workers they will be, problems which can reveal the fundamental basis of the unpleasantness of life under capitalism in the social power relation between worker and boss. But there were more fundamental issues involved. It is not without significance that student left activity in the Sixties was largely centered in the elite colleges, rather than in the junior and "community" institutions into which the lower ranks are channelled. For the latter, until recently at least, college may well have represented a way out of factory labour or Dad's store to white collar and administrative jobs; whereas for the elite students the end of college represented not entrance into. a better life but the ending of a relative freedom and enjoyment that had been theirs' from birth. Although he states it primarily in the terms in which it was experienced by the students, moral ones, Tom Hayden gave an adequate description of the experience in an article written in 1966: By the early Sixties,

"the empty nature of existing vocational alternatives has pushed several hundreds of these students into community organising. Working in poor communities is a concrete task in which the split between job and values can be healed."19

It is also a task in which one escapes from being oneself a worker, a part of the larger "poor community."

Student radicals' understanding of their own activity did not simply derive from their own social position. "The ideas of the ruling class are, in every age, the ruling ideas"; they can be challenged by a true appreciation of social affairs only to the extent that class rule is challenged by a social force embodying the principle of a classless society. But the students' rejection of the social position available to them found no echo in a non student social movement capable of creating a new social system with other options. Since World War II, despite discontent with the limits set to struggle by the unions, and the activities of black caucuses and extra-union groups, proletarian discontent has remained localised and thus always susceptible to defeat by employers and/or union recapture of control. The poor proved to have no power-with the exception of urban blacks who through rioting could force some short-term concessions-at any rate no power that was organizable for a general assault on the status quo. Above all, the students themselves had no power This was of course the secret of their problem, the essence of their proletarianization, and the basic fact against which their rebellion was directed all along. But their powerlessness had to be learned, through their inability to influence the government or the Democratic Party, to stop the war, or to organise anyone else to change the world. In 1970 the student strike involved millions of people throughout the country. Here the student movement reached its peak, spreading through "community," junior, and technical colleges, and joined by high-school students across the country. The impact on the government's activity was. nil; more importantly, perhaps, the strike found little echo among the population as a whole. The students' plea to workers for a generalisation of the strike, through those areas of production which really have the power to break capitalist society and make a new one, went unanswered. This high point, in terms of numbers, energy, and political consciousness was also therefore the end of the Movement, as from that moment dates its steady decline.


The experience of the New Left, as its desires overflowed the system's channels, led to a conscious rejection of liberalism. And, despite the important role played by "red diaper babies," the rejection of many political traits of the Old Left was as central to the New Left project as the rejection of liberal anti communism. But as its understanding of its possibilities as a political movement developed from the goal of left pressure on the lib-lab forces towards ideas of revolution, its organisational forms and rhetoric showed a strong tendency to move back towards those of the Old Left-towards the Party, centralism democratic and otherwise), leadership as major preoccupation, ideology, orthodoxy and heterodoxy, political exclusionism, factional debate. The remains of the Old Left were waiting with "theory" and organisational discipline for those who ascribed the failure of their previous efforts to the lack of these two items. The strength of the New Left is to be sought in the fact that the liberalism of its beginnings and the Leninism of its later stages represented nodes of failure. Within the history of bourgeois society, measured against the workers' movements and revolutions of the past, the New Left represents a historical phenomenon of minor significance. It is important only as the first politically conscious reaction to the stagnation of post-war capitalism, because it raised again fundamental questions about the nature of revolution, and demonstrated in its own history the relation of liberalism to the "Old Left" and the present-day limits of both.

"Liberalism" denotes neither a simple nor a static form of thought and action. As ever, the course of ideas is formed in the soil of the real social development, and the liberalism of the twentieth century is not that of the eighteenth. In capitalism's period of growth, the doctrine of laissez-faire served well in battle against both the traditional ruling groups and the dispossessed peasantry and "labouring poor." With the consolidation of the system, however, and the increasing polarisation of classes between capital and labour, liberalism became the project of overcoming social contradictions through state regulation, without the abolition of the class relations which produce them. In the twentieth century this has meant the official recognition and integration of the labour movement with,the framework of state interference in economic affairs.20

Despite the conflict of ideology, this program had n close affinity to that of the Old Left. Both of the main traditions falling under this rubric-Social Democracy and Bolshev-ism-failed to challenge the roots of capitalist class relations. The Social Democratic parties and trade unions developed, despite their origins in proletarian opposition to capital, as organs speaking for the working class within the evolving political and economic frameworks of capitalism. The steady formation, with capitalist development, of a proletarian mass systematically oppressed necessitated the development of forms of integration of this mass-whose interest is essentially opposed to that of their rulers-into the system dominated by those rulers.Political-parliamentary-rep-resentation allowed for the large-scale regulation and control of the conditions of exploitation; union organisation developed procedures for the handling of grievances and the control of strikes.

Bolshevism represented and represents the adaptation of these forms of organisation to the special conditions of backward areas. In Russia, the birthplace and classic example of Bolshevism, economic and social backwardness was tied to political backwardness (Czarist absolutism). Apparent on the horizon was a revolution which while advanced would share the basic character of the French Revolution and the German upheaval of 1848, in which the dynamic of capitalist development would free itself from a regime doubly ancien by Europe's standards and Russia's. For the Russian Marxists, the situation was indeed a recapitulation of '48, only with every chance of success in the further evolved world of the 1900s. The socialist movement developing as an aspect of the growth of capitalism in Russia would have a double role to play: first as vanguard in the struggle for bourgeois democracy, then in the proletarian class struggle which would accelerate with the unleashed progress.

While the ultimate model for the organisation of the Russian labour movement was the German Social Democracy and its associated trade unions, the bottleneck character of the Russian situation made a mass social democratic organisation a practical impossibility. Bourgeois reformism was out of the question when the bourgeois revolution was still to come.

This was part of Lenin's accurate perception of the situation expounded in What is to be Done? The spontaneous class struggle, he held (trade unionist in aims) was not adequate to the tasks imposed by the Russian situation. The accomplishment of revolution-first of all the bourgeois revolution could not be entrusted to the workers but required an organisation of professional revolutionists, able in their isolation from the daily struggle of capital and labour to keep their eyes on the main question: the bourgeois revolution which, by offering the Party a chance to seize power, would open the way to socialism.

The similarities and contrasts between Social Democracy and Bolshevism are equally significant. In the one case, reform, in the other revolution. But they shared the basic idea that Socialism was to be achieved through control of the state by the party which, as the guardian of Marxist theory, was the true representative of the workers (or, as the doctrine had to be expanded under the press of circumstances, the workers and peasants). This idea was fleshed both in the reformist practice of Social Democracy and in the revolutionary activity of Lenin's party. The difference between them stemmed not from varying conceptions of the relation of the proletariat to socialism but from the difference between the socio-political contexts of Russia and the West, which in both cases favoured a hierarchical party structure presaging the form of the state-run society to be created. Hence it was natural-despite the gulf which otherwise opened between the two leaders-for Lenin to quote Kautsky with approbation in his attack on "spontaneity."' He found "profoundly true and important" Kautsky's opinion' that while socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle this is absolutely untrue. . . . Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia.21

Lenin summed up in his own memorable words:

there could not yet be social democratic consciousness among the workers. This consciousness could only be brought to them from without. the history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness. . . The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the . . . theories that were elaborated by the . . . intellectuals.22

But whereas in Germany the ideology of the Party as carrier of the consciousness "of" the class suited tin organisation which acted in fact as the liberal, progressive force in German capitalism, in Russia the vanguard concept expressed an historical movement towards the very replacement of the bourgeoisie by the Party Ideology, because the supposition that revolutionary consciousness is impossible except as incarnated in the controlling leadership of intellectuals organised in the Party, proved false in Germany and Russia alike, as well as in all the areas in which the capitalist crisis of 1913-~920 drove workers to revolt. The German revolution, which, developing in fact in opposition to the Social Democratic Party, created its own form of organisation in the workers' councils directing the factory occupations, only destroyed itself when it handed power back to the Party. In Russia, the professional revolutionists of the Bolshevik Party rose to power through their support of the masses' demands. If the correct Marxist-Leninist line in 1917 was "All power to the soviets!" it was only because the workers and soldiers had already created soviets and factory committees. The Bolshevik seizure of power, in the absence of successful proletarian revolution in the West, was not the completion of the revolutionary process but the beginning of its end. The substitution of a coup d 'etateven by socialists and even on the basis of workers' support, for the direct seizure and administration of the means of production by the workers themselves, meant inevitably the doom of the effective power of the soviets and the replacement of the dictatorship of by a dictatorship over the proletariat.

That the revolutionary character of the Bolshevik party was due to its situation in a backward area, and not to the strength of the revolutionary will, was shown clearly by the fate of the Communist parties organised in Western Europe under the aegis of the Third International. Their parliamentarism and reformism resulted not only from their subjection to the needs of Soviet foreign policy but also from their adaption to conditions of a revived capitalism-necessary for organisations which want to play a real political role under such conditions.23 Today, the mass Communist parties and unions in Italy and France have the place of the social democratic organizations of former times; the "mature" tactics of Leninism-for-the-West have been excellently represented by the systematic sabotage of the May, 1968 upheaval by the French CP. The failure of the Old Left organisations to develop in the USA during and after the Great Depression may be traced indeed to the fact that the Democratic government and the trade unions filled the role played in Europe by "socialist" workers' Organisations. It is just the latters place, with modifications stemming from the peculiarities of US history, which was taken by those forces proud to call themselves "liberal."


In this historical light, the task conceived by those fragments of the New Left who dream of a revival of revolutionary Leninism in the developed countries acquires a clearer (if dismal) character. It is not unrelated to the liberal beginnings of the Movement. The basis for this tendency was to be found all along, in the centrality of the organiser model of left activity. The professional revolutionist is after all only a bureaucrat or social worker for a state apparatus that has yet to come into existence.

The transmutation of "liberals" into Leninist "revolutionaries" is the result of more than the ideological development of some flew leftists. The continuing strength of liberalism as a program derives from capitalism's constant tendency to "rationalisation." This is an aspect of the nature of capitalist development, which expresses itself both in economic organisation (concentration and centralisation of capital, search for efficiency within production) and in the necessity of overcoming a tendency towards social instability, in periods when the status quo no longer meets the need imposed on the system by its own logic. The economic and social system built by the Bolsheviks in Russia, in which the Party-State takes the place of the capitalist class as a whole, is the logical end point of the trend to concentration of capital and government Interference in the economy which define the "mixed economy" of the present-day West. From this point of view the revival of Leninism (and-somewhat surprisingly, though logically enough-of Stalinism) may turn out to represent a chafing at the limitations placed on further evolution towards a state-run system by the representatives of the still fundamental private-property character of the economy. It is thus related to the myth of the technocratic class, whose approach to power is alternatively welcomed (e.g., by J. K. Galbraith) or feared (see N. Chomsky and L. Mumford).

At any rate the bolshevist idea may well appeal to members of a frustrated intelligentsia, hardly approaching power in fact, who see before them the struggles and successes of the intelligentsia of the Third World for whom nationalist movements controlled by Leninist parties are an avenue to power. What left-leaning Harvard graduate student in government could resist the image of the Party cadre, educating the people, organising them, eventually formulating and overseeing the implementation of the plan which will lead to rapid industrial development, etc.? There is a certain parallelism here with Black Power leaders' frequent identification with the masters of emerging African and Asian states. The Black Panther Party, for instance, formed itself not merely after a Bolshevik pattern but directly on the model of a governmental power, with Ministers of Justice, Information, Foreign Affairs, etc., and a military structure of command.24

The identification 0/ the goals of the American left with those of nationalist and statist movements in the underdeveloped world, itself a reflection of the weakness of the radical movement in the US, revived the Leninist conception of the world-wide unity of anti-imperialist forces. Just as in Russia, the theory ran, socialism could be established in an overwhelmingly peasant country due to the control of the state by the Communist Party, representative of the workers, so the anti-colonial movements would combine with the labour movements of the West to make the world revolution, thanks to the unifying guidance exercised by the Russian party-controlled International. The experiences of the last fifty years should have been enough to dispel this myth from leftist minds, national liberation has proved to mean either neo-colonialism or else exploitation of the masses of the Third World by state capitalist masters, generally involving in either case the reincorporation (to varying degrees) of the "liberated" countries into new empires, the big powers, East and West, dividing the spoils. Even the most neutralist of the new nations (i.e., those which seek to play the various masters of the world oft against each other) have no choice but to adapt themselves to the exigencies of the world market controlled by the industrially advanced countries.

At this point, the prospect of total statification of American capitalism k a dim one. There is no faction of the bourgeoisie with access to political power not dedicated to the preservation of the private corporate system. And the working class has a healthy antipathy to "communism" of the Russian (Chinese, Cuban, etc.) type, which they rightly identify as totalitarian control over the individual's existence despite the fact that, due to their non comprehension of the circumstance that individuals are members of classes, their "anticommunism" takes the crazy form of support for the capitalist system). Even among their fellow students, the new Leninists have been unable to attract more than a handful.

The New Left came into existence because what one might call Old Left liberalism is no longer feasible. The program of the Old Left is also scoring no great success. While the full statification of American capital cannot be ruled out as an option which the bourgeoisie might choose at the sacrifice of their private property interests in order to avoid economic collapse and the threat of revolution from below, at the moment he more significant-as well as only real revolutionary-avenue visible in the future of capitalism is that of a truly communist revolution, organised and controlled by the working class itself. The New Left has pointed to a possible renewal of activity by this spectre. It is for us now more crucial than ever to get beyond the ideologies of the past, in which the New Left was by and large trapped, to an understanding of what such a revolution will require and mean.


The uniqueness of capitalism in the history of human society lies in its development of social integration to a point where the overcoming of the opposition of individual (or small group) to social interests becomes possible. The basis of any society is the production (and distribution) of all the goods that satisfy its members' wants-from food and clothing and material means of production themselves to the arts and the systems of ideas with which societies attempt to understand themselves and maintain belief in the worthiness of their ways of life. In pre capitalist societies, most of this work was carried out on an individual or narrowly local basis. Though the steady growth of cities as a form of civilised existence made for the development of a division between the labour of the town and that of the country, most people worked directly for themselves, their families, their village communities, or their immediate overlords. Hunters, farmers, artisans made many of their own tools; families provided their own homes, clothes, and nourishment; not only tribute but trade moved the products of specialised labour only for the few.

Capitalism has changed all that. The transformation of peasant or freehold agricultural production into large-scale farming by wage-labor for the market and the development of mass-production industry have bound the producers economically-and so socially-not only to those who hold social power but to each other. This is true for both aspects of the unity of production-distribution. An auto worker labours with thousand of others in the manufacture of a common product; and this product is as little for his own or his colleague's specific use as is the bread they eat produced by them. Common labour at the point of production is but the cell-form of a system of common production by all the workers in society for each other.

At the same time, this social system of production developed historically within a structure of private ownership and control of the means and thereby the results of production. Labour took on the form of wage labor; people produce for each other only by producing for the capitalists from whom they must then buy back their own products. Thus social production was created in capitalism at the expense of the producers who can work for themselves-each other-only by working for the masters of the process.

The needs of the producers can be met, due to this peculiar system of social production under private control, only within limits set by the mechanism of the market, which includes and is based on their submission to the labour market. The private aspect of the system dominates the communal. Instead. of being controlled consciously by the joint producers, production is controlled by the market, and the market by the competitive need of individual capitalist firms to accumulate. Thus arise all the anomalies, ridiculous and tragic, characteristic of this system: from the careful designing of light bulbs that burr out faster to the "overproduction" of food while millions starve. Inevitably, such a system leads to conflicts between the needs of the producers and the capacity of the system to satisfy them, its periods of apparent success resolving only in crises throwing millions out of work or into war.

It is no surprise, then, that, from its origins, opposition to capitalism developed as an integral part of capitalist society. From the beginning this has been a class society in which the interests of the class of producers, production for the "co-operative commonwealth," and those of the class of owners and exploiters, the amassing of profit and the expansion of their individual spheres of power, came constantly (though sometimes more clearly than at others) into opposition to each other. As Marx was perhaps the first to stress, it is this rather than the activities of theoreticians and politicians which accounts for the existence of the working-class movement.

Revolutionary working-class activity has not been the creation of "organisers" either ex nihilo or by the infusion of a "good political line" into the workers' "spontaneous" activity. Rather, an examination of past movements reveals a history of radical practice as working-class transcendence of workaday militance in the face of social crisis conditions which transform reformist and integrative movements willy-nilly into revolutionary ones. Reformism is not a doctrine foisted on the workers by bad leaders, but a product of the workers willingness to be satisfied with the gains obtainable in periods of capitalist prosperity. Similarly, the basis of revolutionary activity is the system's inability to achieve permanent stability, its tendency thus to create situations in which the institutions-unions, political parties -that under "normal" conditions channel and contain working class dissatisfactions can no longer function. In such situations the producers are forced to find new forms of activity in their struggle against capital.

Just as the origin of proletarian revolt lies in the workers' experience of capitalism's incapacity to meet their desires, the organisational forms of revolt are developed out of social structures of the system. The fact is that the workers are (as we have seen) already and at all times organised: in the factories, offices, schools, neighbourhoods, and in the interconnections between all of these established by the capitalist production system itself. From this point of view, the problem of the organisation of communist revolution is that of the workers' taking the existing network of social interdependency into their own hands, while reorganising it according to their needs.25

To contrast "spontaneity" with organisation puts the problem of the forms of revolt in a misleading way. Any attempt of workers to take any degree of social power demands-and has always produced-varying degrees of organisation on local and broader levels. What "spontaneity" has been used to refer to is not absence of organisation but independence of the control of political groups. In this regard, what is striking if we look at history is the minimal role played by the political groups of the Old Left in the structuring of revolutionary struggle and the extent to which they have served in fact as brakes on the workers' efforts.

Organisation is the organisation of activity and so grows out of and reflects its needs. Activity pursued within the framework of class society requires for effectiveness the hierarchical structure and business behaviour that capitalism calls for; but revolutionary action calls on different principles. Here what is crucial is people's discovery of their power, so systematically denied by the functioning of the system, to control and organise their own activities. On the basis of this principle of workers' "self-organization" the reality of class can develop through action.

Tactics can be worked out only in terms of the specific shapes taken on by the struggle in specific situations, and are nothing to be determined by a central committee, although interchange of experiences between people in different areas is so important as to be essential. The same goes for strategy; the cleverest strategies "for the working class" mean nothing if they do not correspond to needs felt by people, arising through their own activity. It should be clear that what is at issue here is not "centralism versus decentralism" but rather the relation between local groups and (various) centere(s). What is crucial is, on the one hand, the freedom of the local groups to devise actions responsive to their situations and, of the other, strict control of all supra-local levels of organisation by the locals, so that the centre is only a means to their co-ordination and joint action. Such centralism-co-ordination of local struggles-becomes possible as it becomes necessary, i.e., as the bourgeoisie is confronted as on a large scale, is confronted as a class. For this means that the various groups of producers in struggle are fighting on a common basis, a situation which calls for the extension of the workers' organisation on their workplace to that of several workplaces together, and so on up. It is in this way that the organisation of struggle against capitalism can lead to the organisation of a new society to replace it.

As the thought of the Party (or its Chairman) is no substitute for the masses' own understanding of the situations they face, neither is its organisation a substitute for theirs. While the class of producers derives its revolutionary potential from its constitution on the basis of an objectively given shared social function and experience, a political party is (to use Gramsci's words) a voluntary organisation, a group of people who share a common program. Groups of revolutionaries, of different persuasions, have their own problems of organisation-different ones at different times. Although they may be related to the organisational needs of the class as a whole, it is important to recognise the distinction between the class and the political groupings within it (at best). A revolutionary group may feel, as leninists do, that their holding of power is crucial to the building of socialism. But it ought to he kept clear that the power of the Party is not the power of the masses themselves, however representative of the latter the former may be at one time or another (This was recognised by the Russian Bolsheviks when they banned all political groupings except their own; for the party voted in could be voted out, while other parties were around.)If the workers are still willing to let some special group monopolise power and make decisions for them, this means that socialism is just not on the agenda.
A group which wishes for the seizure of power by the class of which it is a part has a different problem: that of working within its class-where its members work and live -through propaganda and action to help ensure that no social stratum or political group is allowed to give orders to it. (This involves, obviously, struggle against leninism in all its varieties.) A prime aim for such groups must be education: achievement and propagation of whatever they can understand of the nature of capitalism and the possibilities for socialism in our time; collection and circulation of information about the struggle as k unfolds on local, national, and international levels. But revolutionary theory (like all theory) serves action: radical consciousness means an understanding of capitalism as a system which can be challenged. Overcoming the passivity which allows the perpetuation of our current fate, and which might allow capitalism's replacement by a totalitarian party-state, demands from radicals not "organising the masses" but participating imaginatively in the development of a sense of autonomous power and activity among those with whom we work and live.


Student passivity and the attendant collapse of the New Left organisations may be said to express the practical acceptance by students as a group of their place in society. This has happened at a time when the proletarianisation of students and college-degree-holders has taken on a particularly grim tone. The need to hustle for grades and degrees has been heightened by the declining proportion of degree-demanding jobs to the numbers of certified. The gradual development of economic crisis conditions has affected students by limiting the number of jobs both in private industry and in the state sector, and by cutting down on funds available to schools for scholarships and research grants.

This situation has raised the spectre of "a new kind of student protest," exemplified by the strike at Antioch College in the spring of 1973. A long strike by cafeteria employees was followed by a closure of the school for well over a month as "two hundred to 300 students, many from poor or working-class families, struck . . . in an attempt to gain legal guarantees from the college that loans, grants, jobs, and other financial help would not be cut during their five years at school."26 Such phenomena as the formation at various campuses of unions by graduate student teaching assistants and junior faculty reflects the same situation as the discovery by striking Philadelphia public school teachers that their status as "professionals" meant less under current economic conditions than what they share with the other groups of workers who threatened a general strike in their support.

Thus the conditions which may be expected to lead to a rise in working-class activity generally will probably meet with participation by students and college graduates in whatever left movement develops. In the context of a workers' movement, the role of students in capitalist society and in the struggle against it will become clearer. The students cannot "serve" the workers, who alone by taking over their workplaces and living areas can liberate themselves. On the other hand, only a communist movement will give "student power," or the goal of student/staff -control over the school, any meaning; though this will require the dissolution of the forms of education which exist and their replacement by forms involving, for instance, the end of the distinction between worker' and "student"-appropriate to a society in which "the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all." Already the student movements of May, 1968 in France and of the last four years in Italy have pointed to the possibility of the interaction of workers and workers-to-be in common struggle. This possibility can only be strengthened as the social realities confronting students and workers, and the ties of common interest between them, continue to be drummed into the heads of both groups by the pressure of facts. Ultimately the real significance of the New Left lies in this: in the extent to which we utilise the experiences of the movement in the 1960s to make the most revolutionary use possible of the years of social crisis that lie ahead.

July, 1973


(Taken from the Root and Branch collection The Rise of The Workers Movements, published 1975. Originally reproduced for the Class Against Class website. This is a longer version of the text that appeared in Root & Branch #1).

  • 1See Paul Mattick, Critique of Marcuse, N.Y.: Herder and Herder, 1973.
  • 2Cited Ivar Berg, Education and Jobs: The Great Train Robbery, Beacon Press, Boston, 1971, p.30.
  • 3See Berg, op. cit., p.46.
  • 4Conference on "Collective Bargaining and Professional Responsibility" reported in AFL-CIO News, July 13, 1968, cited in Berg, op. cit., p.69.
  • 5Port Huron Statement, SDS: 1962, pp.1, 8, 9.
  • 6There is an interesting analogy to be drawn with a process which was to occur in the late Sixties among college-educated (mostly white) women: in the context of the student movement, the conflict between equal education and discrimination in access to degree-holder jobs has been an important aspect of the women's liberation movement. Sexist discrimination acquired of course a special impact from being practised within the Radical movement as well as in the society "outside."
  • 7"Evolution of the ERAP Organisers," in P. Long, ed., The New Left, Boston: Porter Sargent, 1969; pp.273-4
  • 8Op. cit., p.46.
  • 9"Up From Irrelevance," in M. Teodori, ed., The New Left: A Documentary History, New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969, p.210
  • 10SNCC Founding Statement, in Teodori, op. cit;, p.99.
  • 11"America and the New Bra," in Teodori, op. cit., pp. 172-3.
  • 12"Trapped in a System," Teodori, op. cit., p.187.
  • 13"'Trapped in a System," in Teodori, op. cit., p. 187.
  • 14Op. cit., p.282.
  • 15"On Community Building," in Long, op. cit., pp.355, 358.
  • 16Howard Zinn, "Marxism and the New Left," in Long. op.cit., p.67.
  • 17Norman Fruchter, "SDS: In and Out of Context," Liberation 16:9 (February, 1972), p. 20.
  • 18Jack Weinberg, "The Free Speech Movement and Civil Rights," eked in Teodori, op. cit., p.31.
  • 19"The Politics of the Movement," in Teodori, op. cit., p.207.
  • 20A striking example of this development is the difference in their relation to the state, between the pre- and post-Depression unions in America, the AFL and the CIO. The former adopted laissez-faire for its own device; in the midst of the Depression its leaders declared their stand against state interference in labour-employer relations. The CIO, in contrast, developed almost as an arm of the New Deal government. The merger of the two unions only marked the triumph of the new principle.
  • 21Cited in What is to be Done? in Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. I, (International Publishers, 1967), p. 129.
  • 22Ibid. This, ironically, only two years before the unorganised revolutionary upsurge of 190S, which brought the formation of the first soviets.
  • 23In the case of Germany, where the continuing crisis was resolved only by fascism and the war, the success of this adaptation was not so striking; something forgotten by those who quote Lenin's polemic against Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder as the last word on revolutionary strategy.
  • 24 The attempt of blacks to reproduce in America political forms developed in un-industrialised areas has of course a somewhat different basis than the whites' attempt. Racial discrimination, particularly in the form of the confinement of masses of blacks to the reserve army of the unemployed, seems to be ineradicable within the confines of American capitalism. At the same time, without the activity of a proletarian left cutting across racial lines, no solutions are possible for the blacks except within those confines. Caught on the horns of this dilemma, the black movement has continually swung between integrationist and separatist poles of attraction. In this circumstance is to be found the explanation for the seemingly paradoxical combination, in a group like the Black Panthers, of a reformist social-work practice and a revolutionary Leninist phraseology. Despite the similarities of the blacks' position to that of a colonised "people," the idea of "black national liberation" has no practical significance whatsoever. Black bolshevism can only mean either failure-failure likely to involve systematic and bloody persecution-or else a cover-up for more profitable activities.
  • 25For an example of what this would mean in practice, see "The Mass Strike in France," this volume(ICO).
  • 26New York Times, May 29; 1973.