Friday 12 February 2010
Fifty years ago this month, history took a great leap forward. On Feb. 1, 1960, four black students from Agricultural and
Three months later, the city of Raleigh, N.C., 80 miles east of Greensboro, saw the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), seeking to widen the lunch-counter demonstrations into a broad, militant movement. SNCC's first field director was Bob Moses, who said that he was drawn by the "sullen, angry and determined look" of the protesters, qualitatively different from the "defensive, cringing" expression common to most photos of protesters in the South.
That same spring of 1960 saw the founding conference of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Ann Arbor, Mich., the organization that later played a leading role in organizing the college-based component of the antiwar movement. In May, the House Un-American Activities Committee was scheduled to hold red-baiting hearings in
Within four short years, the Civil Rights Movement pushed Lyndon Johnson into signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By 1965, the first big demonstrations against the war were rolling into
In terms of organized politics, the explosion of radical energy in the 1960s culminated in the peace candidacy of George McGovern, nominated by the Democrats in
Demure under the Democrat Carter, the left did organize substantial resistance to Reagan's wars in
The left's rout was consummated in the '90s by Bill Clinton, who managed to retain fairly solid left support during his two terms, despite signing two trade treaties devastating to labor, in the form of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the WTO agreements; despite the lethal embargo against Iraq and NATO's war on Yugoslavia; despite successful onslaughts on welfare programs for the poor and on constitutional freedoms.
The Bush years saw near extinction of the left's capacity for realistic political analysis. Hysteria about the consummate evil of Bush and Cheney led to a vehement insistence that any Democrat would be qualitatively better, whether it be Hillary Clinton, carrying all the neoliberal baggage of the '90s, or Barack Obama, whose prime money source was Wall Street. Of course, black
As Obama ramps up troop presence in
It would be wrong to say that the left has no heft at all today in American politics. Hillary Clinton's presidential bid crashed and burned because, in the crucial primaries in 2008, the left never forgave her for her Senate vote in support of Bush's attack on
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs