[Marxism] Fwd: Lessons from the Youth Movement of the 1960s

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Thu Mar 30 22:49:15 MDT 2017

[I posted this in the comments in North Star].

This is religion, not politics. It is idealism of the purest water.

The counterposition of "most Marxists" to the "New Left" and then the 
caricature of the New Left as personified  by certain "leaders" is a 
fabrication. The New Left wasn't a political current, organization or 
ideology. It was a movement and part of a broader social transformation 
that went well beyond politics.

"[R]evolution ... like any science must be studied. We cannot afford to 
ignore all the huge issues, the questions that raged through the 
revolutionary movements and the events that flowed from those 
questions," we are lectured. "As the youth movement of the 1960s shows, 
we fail to clarify and take a position on those issues at our own risk."

The alleged failure of the New Left to have Correct Ideas is supposedly 
what doomed it:

"[T]hey attempted to avoid really considering the main debates that had 
raged through those past movements" and, oh so much worse, "they failed 
to take a clear position on them."

"The result was that the New Left got disoriented and it disintegrated 
in just a few years."

The main reasons for the decline of the youth radicalization of the 
1960s didn't have to do with bad ideas. The notion that with correct 
tactics, strategies or ideas things would have turned out much 
differently is so voluntaristic that it blows my mind.

Much, much broader political forces and developments on a world scale 
were decisive, including a decline in revolutionary movements in the 
Third World as neo-colonialism consolidated; the defeat of important 
movements like the French May and the Czech spring; and the sino-soviet 
split and its skillful exploitation by Nixon and Kissinger with detente.

Not considering the "main debates" and failing to come to "clear 
position[s]" was not the problem. On the contrary, there was too much of 
that going on,.

Revolution is not not not "science" in the sense meant here. The idea 
that you can study it like physics, that there are laws of politics, 
even a rulebook of "lessons" that should be obeyed is doesn't come from 
Marx & Engels:

"Communism is not a doctrine but a movement; it proceeds not from 
principles but from facts." (Engels, The Communists and Karl Heinzen, 1847)

And most especially, radicals from the 1960s should STOP trying to 
preach about the "working class." We really don't know much about it. 
 From shortly after the end of WWII until the 2008 depression, there was 
no working class in the United States, not in any meaningful sense. It's 
not just that there was no working class movement worthy of the name; 
there was no mass class identity.

Of all the "identity politics" that people have debated, applauded or 
denounced, the one that NEVER came up was "working class identity 
politics" because there was no sense of coherence or identification as a 
class, no class for itself.

That began to change with Occupy's "We are the 99%," primitive, I guess, 
but clearly there.

A very strong class identification was also a central element in Bernie 
Sanders' campaign.

It is incumbent on us who were part of it to recognize that the Marxist 
groups of the Baby Boom generation were an unmitigated catastrophe. Not 
a single one understood that they were sects.

Any Marxist group in the United States in the second half of the 20th 
Century was doomed to a semi-sectarian existence, isolated from the 
class movement because there was no class movement.

But worse, we married that with the bureaucratic fiction of the 
"Leninist Party" and especially (but not only) in the case of the Trots, 
with defense of the sacred dogma, the correct program.

That is the very essence of being a sect: a group whose borders are 
defined by dogma (or, if you prefer, "ideas").

It is the opposite of a party, which is the (more or less) organized 
expression of (in this case) the working class movement in the political 
arena. Note that I say, "more or less" -- when M&E wrote the Manifesto, 
political parties as we think of them were barely starting to develop.

Finally, marry the cult of the organization with a sacred dogma that, in 
the last analysis, can only be kept pure by a Pope (as the Catholic 
Church has always understood) and you get the sorry list from Hugo 
Oehler to Jack Barnes, Bob Avakian and countless other Lenins of our times.

On 3/27/2017 10:24 AM, Louis Proyect via Marxism wrote:
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