Economy 04-06-2024 10:03 15 Views

The Sixties’ Toxic Legacy 

Pro-Palestine protesters’ encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles. April 2024.

The Berlin Wall’s collapse in 1989 was a deceptive victory. Exhilarated by crumbling stones, the West did not notice the crumbling of its own culture. Overlooked, too, was the complete failure of Western intelligence to anticipate not only the timing but the circumstances of the collapse. After “winning” the Cold War, it was back to pursuing the American dream of consumerist happiness. Americans showed little interest in seeking to understand the ideology that, had its lethality been appreciated, might have prevented millions of deaths from totalitarianism. They didn’t know, and they didn’t want to know. 

Overconfident, underinformed, and naïve Americans squandered the unique unipolar moment when they stood as the sole superpower in history. They forgot that the age-old dialectic pitting pluralist communities against monolithic autocracies is endemic to history. So, the end of one tyranny can mean the start of another, even more deadly. The American foreign policy establishment had long ignored virulent fundamentalist Islamism, despite its having been brewing for decades, oblivious that its own inattention enabled that growth. Not having taken Osama Bin Laden at his word, America was caught entirely unprepared as a new century of strife dawned. 9/11 was literally a bolt out of the sunny blue sky.  

In an instant, everything came to a standstill. A stunned, outraged citizenry demanded safety now. So Congress appropriated money — lots of it. The administration sprang into action. The president declared “an axis of evil,” then hardly ever mentioned it again. How had all this come about? How is Sunni Islamism related to, say, North Korea’s communism or Iran’s theocratic Shiia “democracy”? No clue. 

While for the US to do nothing was not an option, waging one war and then another without an articulated strategy, nor the institutional framework to synchronize all elements of national power or adequate counterinsurgency and counterintelligence capabilities, plus nonexistent public diplomacy, was no recipe for victory.  

Incompetent statecraft only reinforced the anti-American shift in a culture already being sabotaged. Sixties radicals entrenched in the academy and the media, joined by corporate fellow travelers, were using new and improved tactics. They repurposed an old template: millenarian utopianism in the name of the oppressed. For decades, monovocal professors defined knowledge as a construct benefiting the oppressor-colonialist-capitalists. Truth itself became suspect. Dialogue gave way to insults and a polarizing cacophony took the place of rational discourse.  

To understand how this happened, a good primer is the well-researched NextGen Marxism: What It Is and How To Combat It, by Mike Gonzalez, a distinguished former State Department official and Wall Street Journal writer, now a Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and Katherine Gorka, former presidential appointee at the Department of Homeland Security and expert on terrorism. The latest of a growing number of excellent studies focusing on the effect of cultural Marxism on the Western zeitgeist, the book is a page-turner. It deftly exposes the roots of this ideology — a sinister, fundamentally irrational, civilizational death-wish in the European intellectual tradition.  

Set in historical context, this phenomenon begins in the early to mid-nineteenth century, when the lava that had first erupted during the French Revolution erupted again. The brilliant heir of rabbis, Karl Marx — whose hatred of his own religious heritage was excelled only by a diseased vision of a dystopian future where an abstract humanity was exchanged for actual people — created the template for perpetual social upheaval. The book traces how German, Russian, and later Soviet bureaucracies of political warfare used the deeply flawed, self-contradictory cant of “dialectical materialism” as an instrument of power.  

In the US, it was opportunistically midwifed through the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, which resonated during the Vietnam Era. It would eventually morph into the network that is currently paralyzing America’s campuses. Marxism was perfectly suited to be repurposed, a formidable ideological hydra whose seemingly infinite heads can regenerate according to the “struggle” being singled out for opprobrium: Oppressor, Colonialist, Capitalist, White, Racist, Nazi, Zionist, Satan — Big or Small — etc. In typically sinister semantic inversion, its proponents would assign to their adversary’s kettle the color of their own evil souls. 

Gonzalez and Gorka describe this ideology as “a zero-sum view of the world, a world of irreconcilable antagonisms,” where dissent is forbidden, and perfection is perpetually elusive. According to this worldview, America is depraved and must be destroyed, guided by a self-styled elite that believes itself empowered to transform human nature. Revamping economic, political, and personal relationships would presumably reboot Genesis and abolish the Fall. Apples would be rationed. 

1989 was pivotal. Moscow bureau chief of the New York Times, Felicity Barringer, captured the moment: “As Karl Marx’s ideological heirs in Communist nations struggle to transform his political legacy, his intellectual heirs on American campuses have virtually completed their own transformation from brash, beleaguered outsiders to assimilated academic insiders.”  It was also the year when legal scholars of black, Asian, and at least one Mexican-American descent, officially founded and named the discipline of critical race theory (CRT), which “recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with a radical assessment of it.” 

And Eric Mann, a former member of the sixties-era terrorist group Weather Underground who had worked for the Black Panthers and had spent prison time for assault and battery, opened the Labor Community Strategy Center to implement the revolutionary blueprint. In 2001, the Center recruited a teenager who would make history: Patrisse Cullors. She took to heart Mann’s call to action: “We have to build a Third World Movement, with third-world people in this country,” leading a “Black/Latinx/Third World united front with an agreed-upon black priority.”  

In 2013, Cullors co-founded Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza, who in 2015 told an audience of fellow revolutionaries: “Black Lives Matter is much more than a hashtag. In fact, [BLM] is an organized network, in twenty-six cities, globally.” She added: “our task is to build the Left.” The occasion was a premier gathering of global Marxists sponsored by the Left Forum in Oakland, California, titled “No Justice, No Peace.” The sinister network of participants and their leaders, constituting what Mann described as “a little division of labor,” are amply referenced.  

Their job was uniting every constituency opposed to the Western system of values, and the sixties anti-war movement provided the perfect meme. One gay radical, for example, had told Mann that the Gay Liberation Fund got its name “[b]ecause we believed in the National Liberation Fund of Vietnam. We weren’t just wanting gay marriage, we wanted to overthrow the government as part of being queer.” They had both “come out of the tradition where wherever you started, we’re all trying to make the same revolution.”   

Seizing the moment in the post-ideological mirage was crucial. In 1991, Harvard professor Cornell West observed that “the inchoate, scattered yet gathering progressive movement that is emerging across the American landscape… now lacks both the vital moral vocabulary and focused leadership that can constitute and sustain it.” But he predicted that soon “it will be rooted ultimately in current activities by people of color, by labor and ecological groups, by women, by homosexuals.” Four years later, he would author the foreword to the main text of CRT, helping forge the vocabulary and jargon used to infiltrate classrooms, newspapers, and the electronic universe.  

In 2001, the anti-capitalist Red Tent went full global, inaugurating the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Six years later, the American offshoot US Social Forum (USSF) held a massive conference in Atlanta, Georgia, covering all fronts: global warming, economic transformation, race, gender, and more. The topics were veneer; everyone there knew this was “just tactics,” observe Gonzalez and Gorka. “The connecting tissue is Marxism.” The aim is destroying capitalism.  

One of the largest workshops, on “revolutionary strategy and organization,” was led by Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, Bring the Ruckus, Marxist study groups from the Bay Area and NYC, the Left Forum, and of course, Eric Mann’s LCSC. The comrades were duly getting their marching and (mostly) peaceful-protesting orders. As in the sixties, once again police were called pigs. 

Besides race in America, there was race in Palestine — Jews having been relegated to Whiteness. In 2015, Cullors would show up in Gaza alongside the antisemitic cCongresswoman Linda Sarsour, sponsored by National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP). A decade later, NSJP is orchestrating nation-wide sit-ins with nifty tents and slick posters advocating “From the River to the Sea” (read: liquidate Israel) and “Genocide Joe,” and free water bottles. Admittedly, Cullors’ lavish lifestyle, enabled by the organization whose unaccounted millions led to its flagship’s fundraising being suspended in California and New York, has set the construction project back a little.  

But woke-friendly corporations, billionaires, foundations, and individuals with impressive foreign ties are demonstrating the effectiveness of funding campus radicals. Echoing similar anti-Western violent hate-marches throughout Europe and elsewhere, these indoctrinated know-nothings burn American flags, vandalize Founders’ statues with Islamist garb, paint swastikas on cemeteries, threaten and attack peaceful fellow students, police, and even janitors.  

Fortunately, the majority of ordinary Americans are repelled by such tactics. Will that translate into increased vigilance regarding what students learn, how the media operates, and who wishes to destroy our system of government? Not without concerted and strategic popular engagement. Thus, NextGen Marxism concludes on a positive but urgent note. It is up to each of us to “engage in the process of ensuring that this nation is governed responsibly…. The time is now. We have a country to save.” A civilization, in truth. 

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