[Marxism] Fwd: No concern for the opposition

Jeff meisner at xs4all.nl
Fri Dec 2 12:04:29 MST 2016

I'll venture a partial answer to Mark's pointed question:

At 11:33 02-12-16 -0500, Mark Lause via Marxism wrote:
>At some point, we really need to confront thefailure of the Boomers to pass
>on the essential lessons we got had coming out of the radicalization of the
>1960s and 1970s.....  The real question is where the
>hell were the grey-haired activists who were supposed to help them learn to

1) Well from what I have seen, those grey-haired activists have been in the
leadership of today's heroic anti-war demonstrations applying the
"essential lessons" they learned during the cold war. Namely that the enemy
wasn't capitalism (after all, most third-world countries allied with the
USSR were capitalist themselves) but "imperialism" meaning NATO and the
enemies of the USSR and China. And if asked what the term means they'll
happily cite Lenin whose conception of "imperialism" had a totally
different meaning. And then those grey-haired activists might include
another "essential lesson" from the cold war: the nuclear annihilation that
could result from actions that piss off Russia means avoiding war or
revolution in regions which are clearly in the Russian "sphere of
influence." Great lessons for 2016, don't you think?

2) Of course a much larger number of that generation's activists in the US
wound up back in the Democratic party and such institutions conducting
"practical politics" contrary to the "idealism" that was prominent in the
1960's radicalization which advanced revolutionary (aka "unrealistic")
demands, which of course were not to be realized because those revolutions
never succeeded. And then of course an even larger number left politics but
continued to embrace the values they learned through life-style, thus
individual, solutions that they could claim to have upheld for the last 50
years. Would you expect young people questioning capitalism to be impressed
by the evolution of these 1960's activists?

3) And in a more general sense, I'd be surprised if young people were to
follow the lessons learned by their (grand-) parents EVEN if they had been
lessons learnt through successes (which of course was usually not the
case). Maybe Mark and other historians could comment further, but I'd be
surprised of any case in history in which radicalizing young people gave
much weight at all to advice from activists recounting their experiences
from 40 years earlier. The collective memory of a population seems to be
limited to 10 or 15 years at best, with history proverbially repeating
itself on time scales longer than that. I know this point may contradict
the experiences of some on this list, but that is probably because you were
a member of a party led by grey-haired activists of that time to whom you
were expected to display reverence. But the other 99% of the young people
radicalized during the 1960's specifically rejected the older generation
("Don't trust anyone over 30") and set to figure things out from scratch.
Isn't it always that way?

I realize these observations are not what Mark wanted to hear, and doesn't
answer his question of how he is "supposed to help them learn to walk." But
they are not asking to be taught to walk, and will not give Mark the
hearing he (unlike categories 1 and 2) truly deserves. Lacking a complete
answer, I would say that older radicals can best apply the lessons they
have learnt through their own participation in today's activism, which can
set an example especially when (partially) successful. And write useful
articles which will be appreciated by younger radicals -- without them ever
noticing your grey hair! -- rather than lecturing them as if a parent.

- Jeff 

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