Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 1968: 40 Years Later

Six City Journal authors recall a spring that shook the world.

Christopher Hitchens
Cuba was an unusually good vantage point for the 1968 phenomenon since it advertised itself as a new beginning for socialism that would avoid the drabness and conformity of the Eastern bloc. I was able to test this proposition in practice and in two ways. At a “cultural seminar,” I heard the distinguished Cuban film director Santiago Álvarez say that any form of criticism was allowed in Cuba, except direct criticism of Fidel Castro. This seemed a rather large exception, but when I tried to be funny about it (so often a mistake in revolutionary circles), I had my first experience of being denounced, in unsmiling tones, for “counterrevolutionary” tendencies. It was a slight surprise to find that people really talked like that.

Kay S. Hymowitz
Women might have taken stock of how the sexual revolution had ignored female preferences—love, fidelity, male solicitude—in favor of self-centered, male-friendly amusement. Instead, they translated the inescapable difference between the sexes into political and pop-scientific grievance. The reason that women were unhappy with the new order was not that low-commitment sex was an easier game for men; it was that men were intent on denying women’s sexuality. The patriarchy had promoted “the myth of the vaginal orgasm,” these younger feminists explained. Men got what they wanted, but all women got were those lousy faked orgasms.

Stefan Kanfer
The time was right for rebellion: it was a benign spring, and there were “issues.” The students made the most of them, breaking windows, trampling any flowers within reach of their sneakers—jackboots would have been too warm for the weather—occupying offices, destroying papers, and, in general, making a major ruckus. So major, in fact, that Columbia authorities summoned the police. Hordes of outsiders began to arrive, among them leftist critic Dwight MacDonald, who announced that a friend had beseeched him, “You must come up right away. It’s a revolution. You may never get another chance to see one.” Like many another superannuated radical, MacDonald was unable to distinguish a revolt from a tantrum.

Guy Sorman
What did it mean to be 20 in May ’68? First and foremost, it meant rejecting all forms of authority—teachers, parents, bosses, those who governed, the older generation. Apart from a few personal targets—General Charles de Gaulle and the pope—we directed our recriminations against the abstract principle of authority and those who legitimized it. Political parties, the state (personified by the grandfatherly figure of de Gaulle), the army, the unions, the church, the university: all were put in the dock.

Harry Stein
In the sixties, for a lot of us, the business of disguising personal conviction as news was far from disreputable; it was the whole point. That’s why, one January morning in 1968, my colleagues and I at Student Life, the venerable paper at California’s little Pomona College, got such a kick out of finding ourselves the subject of a furious editorial in the Pomona Progress-Bulletin, the daily serving the adjacent city of some 80,000. According to the editorialist, we weren’t merely troublemakers—that we already knew, and reveled in the fact. We were Communists.

Sol Stern
Historians have designated 1968 as the year when a violent whirlwind swept through the nation—when things finally fell apart, to paraphrase Yeats. But the whirlwind was already blowing during our five-day get-together with the Vietnamese Communists in 1967. Hayden, the unelected leader of the American group, was already famous as one of the founding members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the principal author of the 1962 Port Huron Statement, which became the official manifesto of the New Left. By the time he got to Bratislava, however, Hayden seemed uninterested in his own document’s call for a new kind of “participatory democracy” or indeed in any kind of friendly persuasion in politics. Just two months earlier, he had been in the thick of the Newark race riots, which he encouraged with words and perhaps deeds. “A riot represents people making history,” Hayden wrote in a notorious article for the New York Review of Books, celebrating the weeklong outburst of violence and mayhem that led to the deaths of 24 blacks and destroyed a community. The issue’s cover illustration was also by Hayden: an accurate diagram of a Molotov cocktail, one of the rioters’ lethal weapons.

I was assured that the conference would issue no joint political statement, other than affirming the need for ending the war. But from day one, it was clear that Hayden and some of his acolytes were trying to move our group toward a more “advanced” position than the one still maintained by the mainstream U.S. peace movement. Hayden wasn’t interested in ending the war so much as making an alliance with the other side. At one of the final plenary sessions, he gave a long speech summarizing the conference’s accomplishments and emphasizing our need to work together for the common objective: a Vietnam liberated and unified—by the Communists.

1968 changed the world. It changed it in an evil way. It energized a movement that keeps coming back to threaten freedom. Beyond doubt the current candidate for President, Barack Obama, is the candidate of the unrepentant radical left of that time. In the last two generations, 40 years, the youth of that time have permeated many of our highest institutions. However the one thing they have failed to do is now within their grasp. Underlying all of the radical extremist rhetoric and passion was the underlying desire to end free enterprise. Power is the goal. Not freedom. Power. The radicals wanted their turn on top. However free enterprise has proved remarkably resistant to their goal of its destruction. In America we are closer to that destruction than at any time in our history.

That to me that is the saddest part of where the last forty years has brought us. Within all of the sanctimonious bleating of the radical left, power, not freedom, was - and remains - their goal. And for the first time they see the chance to get it with a candidate who is like them, never honest with the people.

I have heard a couple of times the interesting connection of the state of our world with the goals of the Obama campaign.

America is the richest country on earth. Obama wants to change that.

America is the free-est country on earth. Obama wants to change that.

America is the most powerful country on earth. Obama wants to change that.

America has the best health care of any country on earth. Obama wants to change that.

America has the most home owners of any country on earth. Obama wants to change that.

America is the most decent country on earth. Obama wants to change that.

The reality is that the change Obama wants is to change the nature of our nation. The consequences are predictable.

The six articles above are a very appropriate read at this time in history. We are about to experience 1968 all over again. 2008 is the next surge of the most evil movement on our planet. Socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried, but that has not stopped the movement. Greed and the lust for power are all that it takes to keep bringing us back to the precipice of socialism. Anyone who is not happy with his spot in life finds it easier to believe that taking from others by force is their right.

That is the constant threat that drives this failed movement. Greed. And greed is rampant in our modern world.


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