The Rise Of The New Old Left

Victor Davis Hanson // Hoover Institution

In the 1960s, campus radicals were branded the New Left. The media saw the mélange of radicals like Bill Ayers, David Delinger, Jane Fonda, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Herbert Marcuse, Jerry Rubin—as well as hippies, the Black Panthers, the gay liberation movement, La Raza, women’s liberation, draft resistance, and the anti-Vietnam War and new ecology movements—as a new counter-culture, quite different from the narrower “Old” unionists, Trotskyites, Comintern orthodox communists, and Stalinists of the 1930s-1950s.

Sixties radicals claimed their enemies were not just the old corporate bosses and greedy bankers, but rather the entire “Establishment”. The new targeted status quo was supposedly a racist, sexist, homophobic, nativist, and white cohort. By 1968, the “Man” was ritually accused of war-mongering, polluting, and exploiting—as well as just being “repressed”, “irrelevant”, “boring”, “square”, “uptight”, and “out-of-it”.

Sixties radicals saw even the Old Left, with its folk-song protest music, loyalty to Moscow, support for world communist revolutions, and never-ending labor strikes, hopelessly puritanical and dreary. For their part, these old, class-struggle Leftists, who came of age in tougher times, were not so interested in New Left trademark agendas and indulgences of a pampered boomer generation like abortion, LSD and marijuana, sustainable living, identity politics, rock music, free speech, and back to nature living.

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