The Culture Wars: Part 3 The Genesis of the Radical Left

By John Eberhard
06/18/05

In parts 1 and 2 of this series I have been discussing the culture wars, the battle between modern liberalism on one side and modern conservatism on the other, for the control of our culture. Modern liberalism promotes radical egalitarianism, which says that all people must have not just equal opportunity, but they must achieve equal outcomes; and radical individualism, which is against all restraints on behavior, especially sexual behavior.

In part 3, I will be discussing where the radical left came from.

The Origins of the Radical Left: The Secular World Views

In one of my other recent articles, I discussed the five most prominent world views. Let’s review some of the key elements of the three secular world views, as they are instructive in understanding the origin of today’s modern radical left:

Secular Humanism: Materialism, anti-church structure, atheism, moral relativism (no clear definition of right and wrong, it depends on how you feel). The philosophers of this movement were Spencer, Darwin, Dewey, and Kinsey.

Material Humanism / Marxism: Dialectical Materialism; you have one idea, then another opposing it, and from the opposition of the two ideas, another idea is born. The materialism means that the world is all material, with no spiritual aspect to man. Theology: Atheism. Psychology: Pavlovian behavioralism. You can condition people to do what you want them to do. Sociology: Abolition of home, church and state. Politics: New world order, global government, from the top down, an international global dictatorship. Economics: Socialism/communism. Source: Hegel, Marx, Lenin, Engels

Post Modernism: Philosophy: Pragmatism; whatever works (not necessarily what’s right). Theology: Individualism, libertarianism, capitalism, non-religious self law. I’m God. I make the law. I’m in it for me. Economics: Randian capitalism (based on Ayn Rand’s novels), whatever capitalism you can get away with. This school approves of the super-capitalist taking advantage of others. Source: Hobbes, Neitsche, Payne, Rand, Rothbard, and Rordie

You can see elements of the new liberalism that originated in each of these world-views. Certainly the radical egalitarianism that we see today has its roots in Marxism and its off-shoot, cultural Marxism, which extended Marx’s principles of rewarding the lower economic classes, to rewarding any racial or social groups or minorities (blacks, Hispanics, women, gays) that were perceived to not be equal with other groups (affirmative action).

The radical individualism that chafes against any restrictions on behavior, has its roots in all three of the world-views above:

  • Secular Humanism with its anti-church structure, atheism, moral relativism (particularly with Kinsey’s redefining of what sexual norms were toward perversion – and Kinsey himself was extremely perverted);
  • Material Humanism / Marxism with its atheism, Pavlovian behavioralism (including modern psychiatry and psychology), abolition of home, church and state, and its new world order; and
  • Post Modernism with its lack of ethics, selfishness and lack of any type of philosophy of helping others.

In part 1, I talked about the excellent book Slouching Towards Gamorrah by former federal judge Robert Bork, which talks at length about the culture wars and their genesis.

Bork theorizes that if you take the language of the Declaration of Independence, and you take the ideas of equality and freedom and develop them and extend and stretch them further and further, you eventually reach radical egalitarianism (total equality, including the equality of outcomes), and radical individualism (total freedom to do whatever you want). It’s equality and liberty taken to their ridiculous extremes.

I think it more likely that radical egalitarianism and individualism come fundamentally from Marx. Those holding these radical views just like to use the language of the Founders to try to make their ideas more acceptable. But these ideas would have appeared more alien to the Founders than the Martian landscape.

Clearly something radical had to have happened for equality and liberty to end up at radical egalitarianism and radical individualism (and for both to be promoted so heavily today). And it turns out that something radical did happen. It was the radical student movement of the 1960s.

The Birth of Modern Liberalism: Port Huron

Bork pinpoints the genesis of the modern liberalism movement to a single event in the 1960s, specifically the June, 1962 meeting of the Students for a Democratic Society in Port Huron, Michigan.

That meeting was attended by now-famous radical from the 60s period Tom Hayden. Bork says that the statement drafted at that meeting, now known as the Port Huron Statement, was the blueprint for the 1960s radicals that violently took over university campuses across America. This document basically identified capitalist America as the corrupt cause of all evil in society, and called for "tearing the system down."

I read the entire (rather tedious) document myself, with the goal of better understanding what this movement is up to. Here are some of the highlights:

a. Much like the Communist Manifesto, it rails against Capitalism and business as the source of all evils in society. Much of the Port Huron Statement is based thoroughly on Marx.

b. It is openly pro-Communist:

    "An unreasoning anti-communism has become a major social problem for those who want to construct a more democratic America. McCarthyism and other forms of exaggerated and conservative anti-communism seriously weaken democratic institutions and spawn movements contrary to the interests of basic freedoms and peace. In such an atmosphere even the most intelligent of Americans fear to join political organizations, sign petitions, speak out on serious issues. Militaristic policies are easily "sold" to a public fearful of a democratic enemy. Political debate is restricted, thought is standardized, action is inhibited by the demands of "unity" and "oneness" in the face of the declared danger. Even many liberals and socialists share static and repititious participation in the anti-communist crusade and often discourage tentative, inquiring discussion about "the Russian question" within their ranks — often by employing "stalinist", "stalinoid", trotskyite" and other epithets in an oversimplifying way to discredit opposition.

    "Thus much of the American anti-communism takes on the characteristics of paranoia. Not only does it lead to the perversion of democracy and to the political stagnation of a warfare society, but it also has the unintended consequence of preventing an honest and effective approach to the issues."

    "To support dictators like Diem while trying to destroy ones like Castro will only enforce international cynicism about American "principle", and is bound to lead to even more authoritarian revolutions, especially in Latin America where we did not even consider foreign aid until Castro had challenged the status quo."

c. It is extremely anti-US:

    "America should show its commitment to democratic institutions not by withdrawing support from undemocratic regimes, but by making domestic democracy exemplary. Worldwide amusement, cynicism and hatred toward the United States as a democracy is not simply a communist propaganda trick, but an objectively justifiable phenomenon."

I loved that one. So we shouldn’t withdraw support from totalitarian, undemocratic regimes, but we should clean our own house.

    "We need to face these problems with humility: after 180 years of constitutional government we are still striving for democracy in our own society. We must acknowledge that democracy and freedom do not magically occur, but have roots in historical experience; they cannot always be demanded for any society at any time, but must be nurtured and facilitated. We must avoid the arbitrary projection of Anglo-Saxon democratic forms onto different cultures. Instead of democratic capitalism we should anticipate more or less authoritarian variants of socialism and collectivism in many emergent societies."

So we should expect that newly developing countries will be socialist. To expect them to be democratic is unrealistic (sound familiar? Iraq anyone?)

d. It urges that nuclear disarmament become a national priority, including unilateral disarmament (i.e. the US disarming itself first with or without agreement of the Soviet Union).

e. It urges the transfer of sovereignty (in this case the control of our military) from the US to the United Nations:

"2. It will involve the simultaneous creation of international rulemaking and enforcement machinery beginning under the United Nations, and the gradual transfer of sovereignties — such as national armies and national determination of "international" law — to such machinery."

Note that this is the goal of liberals today in regards to the UN, and it is the goal of the UN to take over those powers.

f. It urges the creation of single-issue groups to promote the liberal agenda:

    "Institutions should be created that engage people with issues and express political preference, not as now with huge business lobbies which exercise undemocratic power, but which carry political influence (appropriate to private, rather than public, groupings) in national decision-making enterprise. Private in nature, these should be organized around single issues (medical care, transportation systems reform, etc.), concrete interest (labor and minority group organizations), multiple issues or general issues. These do not exist in America in quantity today."

Note that such groups are common today.

g. It’s full of anti-business statements:

    "Corporations must be made publicly responsible. It is not possible to believe that true democracy can exist where a minority utterly controls enormous wealth and power. The influence of corporate elites on foreign policy is neither reliable nor democratic; a way must be found to be subordinate private American foreign investment to a democratically-constructed foreign policy. The influence of the same giants on domestic life is intolerable as well; a way must be found to direct our economic resources to genuine human needs, not the private needs of corporations nor the rigged needs of maneuvered citizenry."

    "The community of interest of corporations, the anarchic actions of industrial leaders, should become structurally responsible to the people — and truly to the people rather than to an ill-defined and questionable "national interest". Labor and government as presently constituted are not sufficient to "regulate" corporations. A new re-ordering, a new calling of responsibility is necessary: more than changing "work rules" we must consider changes in the rules of society by challenging the unchallenged politics of American corporations. Before the government can really begin to control business in a "public interest", the public must gain more substantial control of government: this demands a movement for political as well as economic realignments."

If you’ve ever read the Communist Manifesto, you will see many similarities and parallels.

Bork comments, "Though most Americans have never heard of the proceedings at Port Huron, they were crucial, for the authentic spirit of Sixties radicalism issued there. That spirit spread and evolved afterwards, but its later malignant stages, including its violence, were implicit in its birth."

"SDS and the Port Huron Statement did not create the temper of the Sixties out of nothing. They coalesced the restless discontents of their generation. While most student rebels did not belong to SDS, the Port Huron Statement repays attention: it was the most widely circulated document of the Left in that decade, brought SDS to national prominence, and its notions became the common currency of the New Left. The New Left is important because it is still with us in the guise of modern liberalism. What was composed at Port Huron, therefore, is a guide to today’s cultural and political debacles."

According to Bork, the radical student movement of the 1960s appeared to die out in the early to mid 1970s. But that was only the apparency. The reality is that the leaders and shakers of that radical movement, after several years of confusion and wondering what to do, decided to enter the very system they despised, and destroy it from within.

Bork states "The temporary abeyance of the Sixties temper was due to the radicals graduating from the universities and becoming invisible until they reached positions of power and influence, as they now have, across the breadth of our culture. They no longer have need for violence or confrontation: since the radicals control the institutions they formerly attacked, the Sixties temper manifests itself in subtler but no less destructive ways."

"They didn’t just go into the universities. The radicals were not likely to go into business or the conventional practice of the professions. They were part of the chattering class, talkers interested in policy, politics, and culture. They went into politics, print and electronic journalism, church bureaucracies, foundation staffs, Hollywood careers, public interest organizations, anywhere attitudes and opinions could be influenced. And they are exerting influence."

"Its adherents did not go away or change their minds; the New Left shattered into a multitude of single-issue groups. We now have, to name but a few, radical feminists, black extremists, animal rights groups, radical environmentalists, activist homosexual organizations, multiculturalists, and new or freshly radicalized organizations such as People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization of Women (NOW), and Planned Parenthood."

"Each of these pursues a piece of the agenda of the cultural and political Left, but they do not announce publicly an overarching program, as the New Left did, that would enable people to see that the separated groups and causes add up to a general radical philosophy. Yet these groups are in touch with one another and often come together in a coalition on specific issues. The splintering of the New Left proved to be an advantage because the movement became less visible and therefore more powerful, its goals more attainable, than was the case in the Sixties."

An additional, interesting aspect of this group that I have noticed is that most of the "chattering class" professions these radicals moved into have no real experience in commercial enterprise, i.e. making money. With few exceptions, all these radicals went into fields where making money is a foreign concept. They spend money, and are certainly anxious to get their hands on yours and mine in order to redistribute it to the "less fortunate," but actually making money – they’re a little short on experience in that field.

Note that this lack of experience in making money, allows them to hang onto their utopian dream of a society where all receive equal outcomes. Most people, when confronted with the business imperative of turning a profit, and its objective, real world measurements, realize that hard work, achievement and talent are essential for administrative and commercial success. So the (unequal) incentives that are an inherent part of the capitalist model – you work hard, get educated, help the firm succeed and thereby get rewarded – are vital for success in any endeavor. Remove the incentives, and the brilliant no longer try very hard. Why should they?

Most production that actually makes money will grind to a halt, or continue in greatly reduced efficiency, like previously in the USSR, or in Cuba, which has gone from one of the highest per capita incomes in Central and South America before Communism to one of the lowest.

Perhaps that’s what gave rise to Winston Churchill’s statement that someone who is 20 and who is not a liberal has no heart, but someone who at 40 is not a conservative, has no head.

Summary

1. The origins of the modern radical liberal are largely in the world view of Marxism, with contributions from secular humanism and post modernism.

2. The birth of modern radical liberalism movement was in the June 1962 meeting of Students for a Democratic Society in Port Huron, MI. The statement drafted at that meeting became the manifesto of the movement.

3. In the 1980s, the leaders of the radical movement joined the faculties of universities, the mainstream media, the staffs at foundations, formed or joined liberal advocacy groups, or went into politics. Their views today are unchanged from the 1960s, and they are exerting great influence.

4. With few exceptions, these radicals have no experience in commercial enterprise, and so don’t understand that the radical egalitarian concept of completely equal outcomes does not work, has never worked, and will never work, in the real world.

Coming soon:
Part 4: Radical Modern Liberalism’s tactics.
Part 5: Culture Wars Status Report: Who’s Winning?
Part 6: A Conservative Culture Wars Battle Plan
Part 7: Summary and Wrapup

Leave A Comment...

*