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and other groups of the poor and dismissed New Deal political orientations in their current liberal Democratic phase as outdated and insufficiently farreaching.
All of us who stood in these ways to the Left of the liberals shared, of course, in a complete disdain of apologists for Russian and Chinese oppression: the least we could agree on was free speech, civil liberties, and democratic procedures. The division between “liberal” and “radical” in those days did not run along the line of more or less sympathy with Communist states, as it so often seems to do today. After the exposure of Stalin’s ferocity, Russian anti-Semitism, Communist suppression of all originality in the arts, those who still saw some virtues in the Communist version of socialism had simply grown silent. In the area of international affairs, the division was between the “mainstream” liberals who tended to find America’s foreign policy—NATO, nuclear deterrence, the maintenance of Berlin’s special status—basically sound and those of us, standing further to the Left, who were convinced that the nuclear arms race would lead inexorably to a final disaster. We were unimpressed or horrified by the new strategic thinking involving game theory and nuclear deterrence, not that we were very clear about what we would put in its place. We believed that there were more opportunities for negotiation with Russia and for détente with the Communist world than American foreign policy supposed. We did not like the frozen stance of the United States on Berlin: were there not more imaginative solutions? The Correspondent, a newsletter created by David Riesman and Erich Fromm, and which I edited for a short time, reflected some of these views.
In domestic affairs the radical position was skeptical of the intelligence and capacities of large bureaucracies, whether in education, welfare, urban renewal, housing, or government in general. Having found nothing in particular in Marx to explain either what was wrong with modern society or what might help (certainly not the monstrous state bureaucracies of Russia and its imitators), radicals in those days were in a condition of peculiar openness. When Norman Podhoretz became editor of COMMENTARY in 1960, his quest for something which would mark a departure from old and rigid positions and would suggest the direction in which we might now move led him to seize on Paul Goodman’s manuscript, Growing Up Absurd, most of which he published in the first few issues of COMMENTARY he turned out. Jason Epstein, at Random House, trying to find something that expressed his own blocked radical instincts, also seized upon the same talisman: this was fresh, new, radical. Goodman, thus restored to prominence, began to publish like a flowing stream. All his books emphasized the anti-bureaucratic, the small and immediate, the human-scale as the salvation of a society grown too large, too highly organized and articulated, too suppressive of instinct and feeling.
Many rivulets of the late 1950’s fed the radicalism of the early 1960’s. There was the fight against urban renewal and other overblown programs such as Mobilization for Youth on the Lower East Side of New York. There was the beginning of campus political activity—in Berkeley in 1957—58, where students organized the first campus party, Slate, a distant premonition of what was to come; and on a number of other campuses where chapters of the Student Peace Union came into being and where publications like New University Thought and Studies on the Left (taking their inspiration from the English New Left Review, which gave the name “New Left” to the New Left) began to appear. The organizing impulse was taken over by SDS. Its Port Huron statement of 1962, a model of humanist radicalism, even stopped short of socialism in its refusal of any commitment to a developed Marxist political position or analysis. SDS would go to the people and learn from them, and so it did in the early organizing projects in the Newark slums, in the poor white areas of Chicago, and elsewhere.
All these various developments then seemed of a piece—criticism of American foreign policy, of the strategy of nuclear deterrence, of home-grown bureaucracies; the emphasis on humanism, on going to the roots, on the small-scale and the immediate. This was the radicalism of the late 1950’s, and holding to it was sufficient to distinguish one from liberalism. John F. Kennedy meant little to us: he was just another liberal politician, though the fact that some of our friends worked for him did make a difference.
This was a radicalism that had a good deal in common with conservatism—the bias against government intervention in various areas, the willingness to let people decide for themselves how to spend their money, the belief that the theoretical and political structures reared by liberals to control policy in the foreign and domestic realms would no longer work, the allergy to Communist repression, the attraction toward the small. Paul Goodman and Norman Mailer express this affinity when, on various occasions, they call themselves “conservative”—indeed, in some respects they are, and for this among other reasons they do not go along with those developments that place so much of the radicalism of the late 1960’s squarely in the succession to the simple-minded, grotesque, freedom-denying radicalism of the Leninists and Stalinists of the 1930’s.
Thus, one explanation of my own move from a mild radicalism to a mild conservatism is that the character of radicalism changed over the course of the decade. But it would be incomplete to leave it at that. I changed too, and perhaps the largest influence in that change was a year spent in Washington, in the Housing and Home Finance Administration. I learned, to my surprise, that most of the radical ideas my friends and I were suggesting had already been thought of, considered, analyzed, and had problems in their implementation that we had never dreamed of. I learned to respect many of the men who worked in the huge bureaucracies, who limited their own freedom, and who made it possible occasionally for the radical ideas of others to be implemented. I learned that the difficulty with many radical ideas lay in the fact that so many varied interests played a role in government, and that most of them were legitimate interests. It was a big country, and it contained more kinds of people than were dreamed of on the shores of the Hudson. I learned, in quite strictly conservative fashion, to develop a certain respect for what was; in a world of infinite complexity some things had emerged and survived, and if the country was in many ways better than it might be or had been (just as in many ways it was much worse than it might be or would be), then something was owed to its political institutions and organizational structures.
My experience at the University of California in Berkeley, where I went to teach in 1963, carried a similar lesson. Many interests were represented in that strange and inefficient amalgam—students, their parents, professors, taxpayers, business, and even unions—and yet each of these interests, in its narrow-mindedness, saw the institution as properly expressing only its own desires. I did not share some of my colleagues’ views of administrators; I believed they were doing necessary and difficult things in reconciling these complex interests, and I appreciated the additional freedom I possessed by virtue of their work. I did not believe universities should be run for the pleasure and convenience of the faculty alone, as—with faculty bargaining power so great by 1964—in large measure they were. Neither, however, did I believe that it was good or wise or possible for them to be run for the pleasure and convenience of the students—let alone a particular element of the student body. So I changed, finding it harder to participate in a casual attack on existing institutions without considering what would replace them and whether it would mark any improvement.
Radicalism certainly spread as the 1960’s moved on, but many radicals also fell away. One must consider to what extent it was they who changed, to what extent it was they who gave up on positions they had once considered humane and rational, and even more seriously to what extent they gave up on these positions simply because the fight for them turned out to demand a far more intense and fierce and violent opposition to the conservative institutions of society than they had originally expected. One asks oneself, having agreed in some measure with Mario Savio about the nature of the “machine” upon whose gears he asked the students of Berkeley to throw themselves, why one withdrew when the opposition to bureaucracy escalated from discourse, petitions, and debates to the whole sequence of actions, including violent actions, with which we are by now all too familiar.
One is reminded of the paths away from Communism. When did the break come and why? What action finally seemed insupportable? There is no point in pushing the parallel too far. One thing that was the same was the bitter division that developed among intellectuals. It was impossible for those of us who were alive and conscious during World War II and Korea to take the same easy path as the radical youth. We had known the country and its army in different times and in different wars. The United States had defeated Hitler and had turned back the brutal invasion of a small country by its better organized, better armed, and infinitely more repressive neighbor. Even as the cloud over Vietnam grew, even as the reports of the horrors came through (and no one can say the reporting was not full or adequate or immediate), we were torn between the old style of political action and the new. We valued the country, the role it had played in international affairs, its ability to handle complex domestic problems, its stability in the maintenance of democratic procedures, its capacity for change and correction.
And some of us were affected similarly by developments on the racial scene. Having lived before the Supreme Court decision of 1954, the Montgomery bus strike, the Birmingham movement of 1963, we had seen significant change—the registration of Negroes in the South; the election of hundreds of Negro officials; the growing role of Negroes in the mass media, the universities, government; the solid hope for a greater role in business and the unions. Yet along with these changes—some, of course, in response to pressure and even violence, but many, too, that represented the inexorable movement toward equality that was proceeding on many fronts and for many reasons—came increasing radicalization, increasing vituperation, increasing disaffection with the country and its institutions.
It was impossible for many of us to accept the easy and frequent equations of the United States with Nazi Germany, of Johnson with Hitler. At first one signed ads against the Vietnam war. Later the ads became fiercer: they not only called for ending the war and getting out, they accused the country’s leaders of the same crimes for which Germany had been condemned at Nuremberg. Then people took their stand and divided, and it sometimes seemed that one of the key factors determining the division was a capacity for hatred. Did you hate Johnson enough—or Rusk, or Rostow, or the police, or the leaders of South Vietnam? Did you hate the Southerners enough, or the Northern white middle classes, or the Northern white workers, or the Jewish school-teachers of New York? It was not pleasant then, and it is not pleasant now.
Thus, more and more people who had been radicals at the start of the decade fell away, and new radicals were made to replace them, the replacements eventually far outnumbering the fallen away, as the student revolt which began at Berkeley in 1964 spread to encompass universities and colleges of every kind and in every part of the country. But if this revolt made radicals of many who had previously considered themselves liberals, the course it took also served to deepen the estrangement from radicalism of others like myself who saw it as a threat to the very existence of the university and to the values of which the university, with all its faults, was a unique and precious embodiment.
I was from the beginning convinced of the importance of the student revolt. I did not see it as an expression of youthful high spirits, or of earnest youth insisting on a better education, or of committed youth demanding the right of political activity and participation on the campus, or of passionate youth insisting that the institutions of higher education abandon hypocrisy and the support of evil public policies. It was all these things of course, in some measure. But if I had felt that they were the dominant factors, I would have joined all those faculty members, intellectuals, and political leaders—there were so many of them all during this period, and there are so many of them now, in the year 1970, as the fires and dynamite charges are set—who welcomed the student revolt because, they said, it brought a breath of fresh air to the stale universities, because it forced them to become responsive to the needs of their students and the society, because it insisted that the universities take the lead in solving society’s critical problems, because these were the best-educated youth in American society, the most morally committed, the most concerned with injustice. I could see some evidence for all this, but from the beginning I saw something else, too, and that was a passion for immediate action, for confrontation, for the humiliation of others, for the destruction of authority—any authority, whether necessary and worthwhile or not—and finally, for the destruction of what was most distinctive and most valuable about the universities—their ability to distance themselves from immediate crises, their concern with the heritage of culture and science, their encouragement of individuality and even eccentricity.
From the beginning I believed that it did not get us to the heart of the matter to analyze the revolt primarily in terms of such issues as faculty-student relations, the nature of administration, the growth and subsequent bureaucratization of the university, the impact of research and government grants on teaching, the relevance of curriculum. All these things were important. All concerned me. But when student discontent broke into forceful action at Berkeley, it bore very little relation to these grave developments in higher education. And in time, as the revolt spread to such very different colleges and universities as Chicago, Columbia, Wisconsin, San Francisco State, Harvard, the City College of New York, it became clearer that the causes did not lie in the special character of a given college or university. Berkeley had an enormous undergraduate college that received little attention from the senior faculty; Chicago and Columbia had the smallest undergraduate colleges, with perhaps the greatest commitment to undergraduate teaching, of any major university; Harvard did not have classified research; some places did not have much research of any kind; some had favorable faculty-student ratios, and some unfavorable. None of these differences mattered.
In particular, to see the student revolt as directed at educational inadequacy, or as a movement that could be satisfied by educational change, was sentimental. Educational reform was a rather low priority of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and its heirs, important as it may have been to individual leaders, and to a good number of followers. The objective of the student revolt quite clearly became not that of transforming the universities and colleges from the point of view of their proper ends—that is, as institutions devoted to teaching and research—but rather of transforming them so that they could realize quite other, and directly political, ends. The thrust of the student revolt in situation after situation was to bend the universities and colleges to the political orientation and outlook of the radical students, who saw the university as a potential recruiting ground, and then as an active participant in the political struggles of society.
The position of the critics of the student movement—certainly of this critic—became a peculiar and difficult one. I shared the ostensible concern with university and college reform. All the issues raised were in one way or another real, and in one way or another important—free political activity on the campus, the parental role of the college or university, its involvement with the state, its inability to order its various functions properly. I also shared the growing horror at the consequences of public policy, principally in Vietnam but also in other areas—nuclear and biological warfare, the bloated military expenditures starving other needs, the mechanical resort to technology to solve problems regardless of their human complexity. And yet, with all these elements of agreement, on one point I stuck, and that point made me an enemy: yes, let us reform the university, and let us, if we can, save the world, but let us not sacrifice the university on either altar, because there is no need that we should.
I was willing to concede that academic freedom often looked like—and often was—academic irrelevance, academic exoticism, academic self-seeking, academic status-striving, academic arrogance, and for that matter a cover for political action, too. On the whole, the share that all these played in the academic enterprise had not, I thought, increased in recent times, even as the academic enterprise itself had undergone such enormous expansion (here I accepted the judgment of analysts of the academic scene like Christopher Jencks and David Riesman). All these excrescences on the academic enterprise could be reduced without endangering what was after all one of the most remarkable products of civilization. The willingness of government (and in this country, private interests) to support scholars in freedom to pursue research and teaching with very minor interference and constraint should not, I thought, be taken for granted: it would be all too easy to arrange matters so that this rare development should come to an end, as it did for a time in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and elsewhere.
The student radicals and their allies, both inside and outside the universities, argued that it was hypocritical to speak of defending academic freedom. Were the universities not already directly involved in political activities? Were they not engaged in defense research, research in support of American foreign policy, research in support of private economic interests? Did their teaching not reflect their interests, did they not train the ROTC, not to mention employees of government and private business? Parts of this critique had force. As it was extended, however, all critical distinctions were lost, and uncompromising styles of thinking and analysis emerged. When this happened—and it happened regularly as we can see by comparing the rhetoric of the beginning of each phase of the movement with that of its later phases—the issue shifted from the question of whether this movement would reform the university or turn public policy around to whether it would destroy the university. I argued from the start that the new tactics, the new violence of language, and the new joy in confrontation and political combat contained more of a threat to what remained valuable within the universities than a hope either of changing them or of changing public policy.
As the criticism of the universities came to be cast in the current radical rhetoric, one saw again the rise of the doctrine that there could be no neutrality, no objectivity, not even partial neutrality or objectivity: in the famous words of Eldridge Cleaver, “If you are not part of the solution [that is, if you are not actively with us], you are part of the problem [that is, you are against us].” If this doctrine were to become widely accepted, or acted upon, there would be no function for the universities and they would be as good as dead.
A real issue—the degree to which the universities had become embroiled in the disastrous foreign policies of the United States government—was translated into the kind of undifferentiated blanket issue that radicals of the Left and Right have always favored. The Peace Corps became as bad as the CIA (I leave aside the question of how bad that was—the CIA became an issue which could barely be raised with physical safety in the universities), innocuous research on government contracts as bad as direct research in support of military tactics, studying the characteristics of developing countries morally equivalent to plotting to overthrow them. These are not extravagant statements: they will only sound extravagant to those who have not had direct experience with university campuses. To radicals, those of us who believed that these differences were still important became “part of the problem.”
This style of absolute thinking, which characterized so many different things as all being in the service of “imperialism,” “racism,” and “capitalism,” also served to obscure the distinctive characteristics of the colleges and universities: their commitment to free inquiry, free discussion, free teaching—characteristics that were valuable whatever the disasters of American policy, foreign, military, or domestic, might be. But these virtues were not obscured only by the idea which insisted that the colleges and universities must be enlisted in radical social change (a belief which became surprisingly influential among many who were not themselves radical); they had already been considerably obscured by developments within the universities and in the relationships among universities and government and other outside authorities. Thus, a good part of the support that was needed for the enormous expansion of the universities and colleges was granted on the basis of the argument that these institutions provided trained employees for business and government, did valued research for them, and added to the gross national product. I have always doubted that this argument can really be substantiated. When economists assert that a certain investment in higher education will do more for the economic development of a poor country than a steel mill or a dam, they may have a point, but a point that is commonly exaggerated to a grotesque degree. As David Riesman has often said, we veil our idealistic and altruistic and playful impulses in pragmatic and self-interested guise, and by “we,” I mean all kinds of people in all countries. Higher education has always had a role as simply a consumption good; this must have been more obvious when it was reserved for the upper and upper-middle classes, and there were clear distinctions between those who were trained to practice some useful profession (doctors, engineers, lawyers), and those who were being “finished” to take up a life in a particular social milieu. Colleges and universities also have a role in providing a “liberal” education, whose economic or practical value is undeterminable. And they have a role, of equally uncertain value economically, in maintaining and extending knowledge of the arts and sciences: it was in this connection that the idea of academic freedom developed, and that universities became to some extent centers of social criticism.
As the growth of universities was increasingly justified in terms of service and contribution to economic growth, the simple fact that they exist also to provide liberal education and to protect knowledge, speculation, and criticism, tended to get overlooked. Argument rarely took account of these functions of the university, even though in reality they grew along with the professional schools and the more practical parts of the physical and social sciences. When the situation called for radical social criticism, the universities and colleges, despite their development in the direction of service, direct professional qualification, and research for clients, had great reserves of it in store—more than any other part of society could provide.
For this and other reasons, then, many of us continued to regard the university as precious. To the degree that radicalism in the latter part of the 60’s wished to destroy the university or even refused to acknowledge its right to distance itself from the world, to remain free to be foolish or irrelevant or outrageous no matter how great the horrors of the world outside, to that degree were we further estranged from the radicalism with which we had begun.
There was, finally, one other large consideration which entered into my transformation from mild radical to mild conservative, and this was the conviction which grew upon me as the decade progressed that we are entering a world in which various forms of new social control will become necessary. They will become necessary not because some men want to control others, or because organizations want to shape men to their will, or because social institutions inevitably turn men into their servants (though all these things are true), but because human demands, demands that most of us consider good and proper, and that the radicals among us support most enthusiastically, cannot be satisfied without highly developed organizations and some limits on human freedom.
This is a position that is easy to misunderstand, and radicals—and not they alone—regularly misunderstand it. The democratic and egalitarian revolution means that people do not accept tradional limits on their standards of living, on their desire for material goods, on their demand for political participation and for control of their own lives. Most of us generally see all this as leading ultimately to a better society, a society in which every person receives varied and nutritious food, good housing, adequate clothing, proper medical care, access to higher education, opportunities for travel and for wider experience and for playing more active political and social roles. If we are to be truly equal, such goods and services cannot be denied to anyone; if we are democratic, people will insist on a higher and higher level of governmental responsibility to provide these goods and services; if our systems of communication are such that everyone is aware of the level of goods and services that prevail in some places, and the deficiencies that still obtain in others, then a democratic people, in an egalitarian society, will know what to demand.
To meet such demands inevitably means greater social control. It means heavy taxation, to pay the cost; it means setting limits on the building of houses and on the growth of towns to maintain some measure of amenity as population and production expand; it means stricter regulation not only of industry in its disposal of waste but of ordinary people who may wish to burn refuse or discard litter (“Alice’s Restaurant” deals with larger issues than Arlo Guthrie perhaps knows, and the heroes may well turn out to be the officer and the judge). In the end it may mean the control of such intimate human functions as the right to bring children into the world. The expansion of human freedom in some directions, one can demonstrate, must ultimately mean the limitation of human freedom in others. Young people, wishing to divest themselves of a corrupt civilization, take to what they conceive to be the wilderness, to live with freedom and without restraint. But if they litter the wilderness, pollute the streams, and abandon cars in the forest, their freedom to seek what they consider the good life will have to be restrained so that some aspect of the good life can be retained for others. Some day we may get tickets to visit Yosemite—one visit to a lifetime, and perhaps they will be sold and bought on the stock market—just as licenses to bear and raise one’s quota of children may be bought and sold on the stock market. How else can one reconcile the expansion of human desires and the insistence on equality with the growth of population?
This incapacity of the earth, as nature and God left it to us, to support the rising human demands that are now encouraged by every social force, justified by every major philosophy and ideology, accepted as legitimate by every major government, will inevitably mean that a society of freedom, plenty, equality, and loose or no organization cannot come into being, whatever the passionate convictions of young radicals.
Obviously, within the large general perspective I have presented, there are many alternatives, from Sweden on down. But neither to our young radicals nor to theirs does Sweden seem to be the way of the future. Yet even Sweden is better off today than it will be, as immigration brings more people into the country, and as it seeks to share its wealth with poorer countries like North Vietnam. And even Sweden today demands, and must demand, stronger controls than the United States does, in order to maintain its advanced social and physical environment. It takes more in taxes, limits the freedom of its citizens to build houses, more systematically regulates their educational and occupational choices, records all the facts about them in a national computerized system.
Some of us have called the student rebels “Luddites”—machine smashers—and have been answered: the Luddites of the early Industrial Revolution smashed machines that were good for life; the students smash the machines that bring death. This simple retort will not carry us very far. Even in the United States, engaged in an awful war, less than 10 per cent of the gross national product goes to the military, and a good part of that provides education, medical care, housing, food, and clothing for some millions of people.
The radicals answer that much of the remaining 90 per cent is also life-denying, going to such unnecessary or harmful products as cars, roads, and television sets. But the vast majority of the population sees in these things the essence of the good life. Human wants can be met in many ways, but they cannot be met by dismantling the machinery, physical and institutional, of modern society. Only a drastic reduction in standards of living—and radicals are the first to insist that standards are already too low for large numbers of our people—or a drastic reduction in the total number of people is compatible with the degree of freedom from organization, control, discipline, and responsibility for the support of others that seems to be the special demand of contemporary radicals.
The young radical guerrillas now engaged in the sabotage of social organization take it for granted that they will be provided with complex means of transportation and communication, and with food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. The easy availability of these things is based on a system they deride and which in their confusion they want to bring down, not realizing that they themselves and all those they wish to help would thereby be reduced to misery. The arduous and necessary discipline of Cuba and China does not deter them from taking those countries as models, or perhaps really only as symbols, since they know almost nothing about them. The mild discipline of free countries, which makes it possible for large numbers to withdraw into nonproductive styles of life, they experience as more chafing.
This argument is often mistaken as simply a moral argument: “Since the radical youth benefit from modern capitalist society, they have no right to attack it, just as Marx and Engels, since they benefited from capitalism and led a life based (in their theory) on the exploitation of others, placed themselves in an insupportable moral position.”
Perhaps there is some justice in the moral argument; I am not sure. But in any case I am not making a moral argument, I am making a logical one, based on empirical reality. What I am asserting is that to dismantle the structures of modern society will mean a radical reduction in the general standard of living. Rather than weakening these structures, we must alas strengthen them. In other words, we cannot insist on giving more people the opportunity to maintain a high standard of living and simultaneously demand that they be given a greater freedom from control, from work, from family discipline. More and better food will mean more people working on food production and distribution. Better housing will mean more people working on the production and maintenance of housing. Better medical care will mean more people working in health services. Access to better communication and transportation will mean more people working on these systems. The belief that the introduction of new machinery and technology makes possible the release from labor was an illusion in Marx’s day, and is an illusion in ours. The rising level of human demand and human expectations steadily outstrips the productivity of machines, and by now the ecological damage caused by many kinds of machines means that we must find ways of containing the rise of these demands and expectations. Rich countries have severer shortages of labor than poor countries, and countries like Sweden, West Germany, and Japan which spend little on arms or on other life-denying products have the worst shortages.
It is only in literary Utopias that there is less work to do. In real societies which attempt to improve themselves, whether by reform or revolution, whether it be England or Sweden or Yugoslavia or Cuba or China, there is a continual demand for more work, and more and more people are drawn into the work force. First the rural population is driven from its life of following the seasons, with its periods of leisure; then the women are recruited into the work force; finally foreign labor is imported from those countries in which progress is not yet so far advanced. Nor can we simply place quotation marks around the word “progress”: what we are talking about is the kind of change, after all, that revolutionaries, as well as reformers and conservatives, encourage and promise to the people of the world.
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It was considerations such as these which led me to believe that the radical thinking of the late 1960’s was almost completely misguided, based on an amazing ignorance of the lineaments of modern society and an almost equally amazing arrogance. One saw formulations by Marxist activists and scholars of the 1890’s or 1930’s served up again as an adequate explanation of contemporary America or the capitalist world in general, and one could only sputter in response. The second time around, the views of Rosa Luxemburg or of Lenin not only seemed irrelevant, but had been cheapened and vulgarized. Nevertheless, the passions which leaned upon their theories for support were as fierce as ever. Capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism had all undergone immense changes, but hatred of the free world (and I insist on using that designation without quotation marks as well, for despite the combination of ignorance and intimidation which has forced its abandonment in recent years, it still points to the largest single distinction between the Communist and the non-Communist countries) was as fierce in 1970 as hatred of the unreformed capitalism of forty or eighty years ago.
I will not pretend to possess any full understanding of why this hatred should be so fierce or why those who feel it most keenly should now come predominantly from the upper-middle class. But whatever its sources, it served as an additional factor in the estrangement of people like myself from the radicalism of the late 60’s. I for one, indeed, have by now come to feel that this radicalism is so beset with error and confusion that our main task, if we are ever to mount a successful assault on our problems, must be to argue with it and to strip it ultimately of the pretension that it understands the causes of our ills and how to set them right.