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The lowering boomers

By Owen Paine on Monday July 9, 2007 01:06 PM

Ahhh, the Monthly Review -- often I turn to it for... well, in this case, it turned out to be foolkrieging:


As many of you may know, I hate my generation of meritoids -- the woodstock wing in particular, and its "new left" solarium in even more particular.

Long abandoned, its walls of glass smashed in at a thousand points by the stones of time's hard realities, I've often recalled it with a mellow snicker. But now, I'll be goddamned if after nearly a third of a century of total eclipse, this least worthy of radical structures isn't appearing from behind the leading edge of our new century. A gen-X maxim proves true again: just when you begin to believe their reign has finally ended, recall this bloody fact: old boomers never die, they just wade wade wade... back in.

The old new-left Undead have "rewrtitten" -- how pathetic is that? -- a document that sank like a stone back in '63, when it was first written. For a patch of unintended self-parody, the current version deserves immediate induction into the boomer travesty temple of Olympian laughter. Early on, there's a whack at the "long-winded" Vaclav Havel, which is very welcome of course, but then talk about long-winded:

...drafted by several MDS and SDS activists with criticisms and suggestions from Bruce Rubenstein, Jay Jurie, Penny Rosemont, Mark Rudd, and Devra Morice for MDS, Senia Barragan and Josh Russell for SDS, and a valued friend from War Times, Max Elbaum. Paul Buhle did most of the drafting and rewriting....

We stand at the beginning of a new social movement as well the beginning of a new century. The global overreach of US strategies has created divisions in society unknown since the 1960s, in some ways unknown since the 1890s. Here, a soldier is shot to death after a fourteen-hour domestic standoff because he is driven mad by the prospect of his return to Iraq. There, casualty figures are systematically underreported, the degree of military brutalization and eco-poisoning warfare hidden as effectively, or ineffectively, as in the early years of the US invasion of Southeast Asia. In Washington, powerful forces with billions of dollars behind them (and clearly more at stake) rage against each other, hopeful of protecting Empire but blinded by their past triumphs and unable to find a way out. New SDS, with several thousand members and several hundred chapters, takes the field in the name of a newly rebellious generation, its membership reaching into community colleges and high schools far from the liberal arts limits of the 1960s, and across borders to Canada, Germany, Indonesia, and elsewhere. We also see the beginning of yet a new project: the founding of MDS, the Movement for a Democratic Society.

Can't touch stuff like that, now can ya? You just gotta bottle it for posterity.

What follows that opening florish is a lickety-split dash through the last 45 years or so. Upshot : Uncle won all the marbles -- set up a global rigged casino -- and got to use even "depleted uranium" where and when needed, without much meritoid yowling.

Yes, it's gotten pretty dark on planet earth, but fortunately for civilizations' better angels, 9/11 proved "This was not the end of history." Since that frightful moment, "The truth is out and the subservient backers of American military conquests have grown sheepish and silent." However, "Rather than engage in the sort of introspection that would reveal the role and purposes of U.S. power projected across the globe," the TNC goblins upped the ante, switching to No More Mr Nice Guy mode, i.e. a "strategy that can be neatly encompassed as a Patriot Act for the whole planet."

Mid-voyage sum-up:

On the forty-fifth anniversary of the Port Huron Statement... we once again face a world in which existing modes of thought are treated by the public with contempt. Institutions both old and new seem to be threatened....

The golden age of confident socialism, in the first decade of the twentieth century, can be book-ended with the golden age of capitalism during the final decade of the same century... why then the self-confident predictions of the Marxists and equally self-certain predictions of the 1980s-90s globalizers fail so miserably?

It seems the Wall Street rats, in drafting up their new world order, didn't reckon with "a moiling world of people." This triggers another plunge into Clio's record books, now back to the age of the two Roosevelts, which saved capitalism from itself -- but
Then FDR died... [beginning a] march toward total global hegemony at any cost.... Labor leaders, screenwriters, even career diplomats associated with leftwing causes either abandoned their ideals or found themselves banned and discarded...A new world of atomic bombs and Cadillacs emerged, with light weapons and Chevrolets for small-fry wars and consumers, respectively....

... keen economic analysis updating a century of Marxist predictions.... notes that stagnation and sluggish growth in the old-fashioned categories of GNP and productive capacity have continued as leftwingers long predicted they would.

Now we get a run of why that's good -- no, that's bad -- because despite the GNP secular sluggery,
... remarkably enough, these disappointments have not impeded profit levels, nor brought down the world's leading capitalist power, its center still situated on Wall Street....

No one, neither Keynes nor Milton Friedman, had sufficiently credited the power of seemingly bottomless debt.... [or] predicted the degree of the financiers' takeover, displacing actual production with the concentration of paper [or] the strange contemporary conjunction -- punctuated by the Chinese State-directed bailout of Wall Street....

Perhaps, and this is a grim thought, slow growth and wild speculation are locked together in a downward spiral of widening class differences and ecological decline. Making money steadily displaces the making of anything else, goods or services. Debt creation and the collaterization of debt, the magic instruments of recovery (or pseudo-recovery), demand ever taller towers of cash. These disproportions come, naturally enough, from a vast heightening of exploitation in every respect, now no longer draining only the lives of people on the planet but the earth itself. Lacking a successful challenge, they will, within two generations, have wiped out nearly every species of fish, eviscerated all but the least of rainforests, and set the planet upon a near irreversible course of global warming. The lives of suffering humanity, in the face of these threats, can only be imagined....

But! Be of good cheer! There's the "Crisis of Empire":
The explosion of simultaneous crises, as leading scholar of empire William Appleman Williams noted long ago, stems from the demands for absolute planetary control... [and yet] How much does "the average American" feel the suffering of others in less fortunate places of the planet?
Pretty sweeping, eh? And -- there's more! There's a "A Short History of the Old and Heroic Left." Starting point:
A special moment in the 1840s-60s [which] saw abolitionism, women's rights, and pacifism predict the movements of more than a century later and offered a legitimate counterpart to the emerging class struggles in Europe and elsewhere.... If the Communist Manifesto and the Paris Barricades of 1848 had any single counterpart anywhere, it was surely the Seneca Falls Convention and the declarations of Woman's Rights.
At this point we enter the full Barnum and Bailey world of lefticle struggle. After a Dante to Virgil-like adeiu to Allen Ginsberg, we reach "1962, the year of Port Huron," Like Finnegans Wake, river run back to that mudsill of the left's "Age of Aquarius."

Oh I grow weak -- but read on: such topics await you as "Globalized Labor -- At Home"; such insights as:

In the new century, the situation has changed utterly... new radical hopes become visible on the horizon... a version of egalitarianism, successor to visions of socialism and anarchism.... the day has not passed when working people, as part of a broad coalition (and not likely to be unionized) can make a decisive difference.
Final panorama:

The Society We Face -- Then and Now

Perhaps the work begun at Port Huron will be taken up once again around the world, for the globalization of power, capital and empire surely will globalize the stirrings of conscience and resistance. While the powers that be debate whether the world is dominated by a single superpower (the US position) or is multipolar (the position of the French, the Chinese and others), there is an alternative vision appearing among millions of people who are involved in global justice, peace human rights and environmental movements -- the vision of a future created through participatory democracy

Comments (1)


i'll not try the likes of this again....

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