On Being Deradicalized
HOW DOES a radical-a mild radical, it is true, but still someone who felt closer to radical than to liberal writers and politicians in the late 1950′s-end up by early 1970 a conservative, a mild conservative, but still closer to those who now call themselves conservative than to those who call themselves liberal? I seem to have moved from a position in which I was a bit embarrassed to be considered liberal (surely I was a degree further to the Left than that!) to a position where I am again embarrassed, but from the other side: surely I am not so “Establishmentarian” as that!
One way of explaining this change is to describe what it was to be a mild radical in the late 1950′s. Consider the writers who, in those days before and just after the Cuban revolution, were thought of as radical: Paul Goodman, Dwight Macdonald, Irving Howe, Michael Harrington, C. Wright Mills. Consider the kinds of actions that radicals engaged in then. One demonstrated-if one lived in New York-against civil defense in City Hall park, applauded Castro’s speech in Central Park (applauding Castro more than his speech: who knew what he was saying?), joined with Jane Jacobs in her attacks on urban renewal, supported the organization of public-housing tenants and other groups of the poor and dismissed New Deal political orientations in their current liberal Democratic phase as outdated and insufficiently farreaching.
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