1968 and After

The Revolutionary Aspirations of the New Left
Revolutions Study Group

Fifty years ago, the political-military blocs of the Cold War had ossified, social democracy and labor unions in the West were tamed, and struggles for change in Eastern Europe and Latin America seemed to have been controlled by combinations of sticks and carrots. Then, in the year 1968, in France, Italy, the United States, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, etc. there were immense uprisings against the status quo. This fall, we will study this watershed period (1968-1974) considering the achievements and failures of the Left in the 1960s. We will read Chris Harman’s The Fire Last Time (2nd revised ed. 1998), linking the events of 1968 and what carried these events forward.

The Revolutions Study Group (started at the Brecht Forum) has met since 2009. Participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the 1848 European Revolutions, the May 68 movement in France and the Hot Autumn of Italy and much more.

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Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties

Presentation and discussion with author Thomas Grace

In Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties, Thomas M. Grace details how the National Guard killings of antiwar students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, were not a mere tragic anomaly. Rather they were grounded in a tradition of student political activism that extended back to Ohio’s labor battles of the 1950s. The vast expansion of the
university after World War II brought in growing numbers of working-class enrollees from the industrial centers of northeast Ohio, members of the same demographic cohort that eventually made up the core of American combat forces in Vietnam. As the Vietnam War’s rising costs came to be felt acutely in their home communities, Kent’s students joined the growing antiwar movement and clashed with the university administration and the political conservatives who dominated county and state government in Ohio. The battle over the memory and meaning of May 4 has continued to the present day.

THOMAS M. GRACE is adjunct professor of history at Erie Community College. A 1972 graduate of Kent State University, he earned a PhD in history from SUNY Buffalo after many years as a social worker and union representative.

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Reading “Finally Got The News”: 3rd Sessions, Part 4

The 3rd Four-Week Session
A reading group facilitated by Lisa Maya Knauer of The Marxist Education Project and members of Interference Archive

All are welcome to join at any session!

The 70s were a turbulent decade for the left, both in the U.S. and worldwide – from the student protests against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970, through the Nicaraguan and Iranian revolutions.

This reading group, designed to accompany Interference Archives’ exhibit Finally Got The News will explore some of the key liberation movements of the 1970s U.S. through the lens of written documents included in the exhibition, as well as excerpts from publications by the activists and intellectuals who led, chronicled and theorized about them. This is not a nostalgia trip, but an opportunity to critically examine some important and often-overlooked threads of our collective history in order to inform our own politics of liberation in the 21st century.

Our reading will be divided into three four-week sessions, using key protest events as entry points into the larger issues that they embodied.In each session, we will try to put the social movements we examine into dialogue with each other — as they generally were at the time. Often, individuals became politicized through one specific protest or movement, which then opened up an array of questions and issues, so there were a lot of flows of people and ideas between and among movements. Reading sessions will take place at Interference Archive on the Saturdays listed below, from 3-5pm. Please email info@interferencearchive.org if you would like to participate, so that we can provide access to reading material. All who pre-register will receive reading materials for the first session in advance.

The reading group is a collective undertaking, and we welcome those whose entry in radical politics came long after the events we are studying as well as veterans of those movements.

Part One: (February 25 remaining session—come join in at any time!)

We’ll start with the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), the role of race in the formation of the U.S. working class, and trade union radicalism as an alternative to business unionism. We will then read about the prisoners’ revolt and brutal put-down at Attica, looking at the naked exercise of militarized state power and the growth of the prison-industrial complex. Saturday, February 25 will be a discussion of the politics, writings and assassination of George Jackson and the aftermath.

Part Two: (March 11, 18, 25, and April 1)

Next, we turn to the American Indian Movement and the 1973 stand-off at Wounded Knee, echoes of which resonated through the encampments at Standing Rock. We’ll then continue to talk about the interaction of social movements and the state while looking at the New York City fiscal crisis, the politics of austerity, grassroots responses, and anti-authoritarianism. The role of finance capital in imposing deep cuts on working people’s lives in 1975 will begin in the second part of the discussion on March 25.

Part Three: (April 15, 22, 29, and May 6)

Thinking broadly about decolonization, we’ll look at how the 1975 Portuguese revolution and the independence struggle Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau provide an opportunity to explore the relationship between colonialism and national liberation. The 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua opens a window into Latin American revolutionary struggles and the challenges to U.S. imperialism in former client-states. We will then delve into radical feminism and its sometimes uneasy relationship with Marxism and socialism, and we’ll continue our discussion of sexual politics in the gay and lesbian movements.

Lisa Maya Knauer is a lifelong radical who came of age politically in the 1960s and 1970s. She was active in the anti-war, civil rights, women’s, farmworkers support, anti-apartheid and other movements. She moved to New York in 1977 and quickly immersed herself in the New York left. She found the School for Marxist Education in the phone book and joined the Marxist Education Collective, and has been involved with this educational undertaking through its various incarnations, including the Marxist Education Project. In her day job, she is a tenured radical at a public university and does research on indigenous resistance in Guatemala and immigrant worker organizing in the U.S.

The Marxist Education Project (MEP) has been formed as a place to study, and to work to consciously identify what questions we must address and together answer, each bringing to the discussion our diverse locations and experiences within society as a whole. We are confronting great possibilities and great challenges which require that we socially and politically find common ground while embracing not only our own but also each others different needs as our own into one organized emancipatory voice that represents the needs and aspirations of all humanity with social and political programs to begin the remediation of ourselves and our relations to each other and the ecology of our planet. In this first quarter of the 21st Century it has become clear that we as a species have a great challenge and responsibility—to bring together all our different needs and knowledge into an organized and diverse political force that can not only impede the prerogatives of an imperialist capitalism but also start to put in place means for transitioning to different ways of producing while in doing so we take into account all the needs of nature. In the next year we will begin offering classes and events in other boroughs and neighboring cities including Saturday morning sessions in Newark.

Interference Archive: The mission of Interference Archive is to explore the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in an open stacks archival collection, publications, a study center, and public programs, all of which encourage critical and creative engagement with the rich history of social movements.

The archive contains many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, books, tee shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, and other materials.

Through our programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation. We consider the use of our collection to be a way of preserving and honoring histories and material culture that is often marginalized in mainstream institutions.

As an all-volunteer organization, all members of our community are welcome and encouraged to shape our collection and programming; we are a space for all volunteers to learn from each other and develop new skills. We work in collaboration with like-minded projects, and encourage critical as well as creative engagement with our own histories and current struggles.

As an archive from below, we are a collectively run space that is people powered, with open stacks and accessibility for all. We are supported by the community that believes in what we’re doing.

Admission to the reading group is free to all. Contributions are accepted.

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The Emergence of a New Left

4 multi-week sessions begin February 7. Participants include Mitch Abidor, Noble Bratton, Jenny Brown, Dan Karan, Michael Lardner, Peter Marcuse and Michael Pelias

Sessions A: 9 more weeks, February 7 through April 4

Ginsberg’s Howl, C. Wright Mills’ The Power Elite, Civil Rights from Reform to Revolutionary Politics, Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man

Sessions B: Sartre’s Search for a Method, Anti-Psychiatry, R.D. Laing, Marat/Sade, 1968 Paris, Prague, Mexico City, The Revolution In Our Ears, Jeff Nuttall’s Bomb Culture, Che Guevara/Regis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution revisited
12 sessions starting April 11,
7:30 – 9:30 pm

Sessions C: Women’s Liberation Renewed,
History of SDS/Black Panther Party
11 sessions starting July 11,
7:30 – 9:30 pm

Sessions D: Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life: An Overview
11 sessions begin October 3,
7:30 – 9:30 pm

All four sessions from February 7 through December 19 for a discounted advance price of $300 or pay what you are able

C. Wright Mills: The Power Elite
Tuesday, January 31, February 7, 14

We will begin on Tuesday January 31 reading Allen Ginsberg’s Howl together: Out loud. When we have said what we want to say we will move into a discussion of the work and influence of C. Wright Mills.

Mills’ The Power Elite was published in 1956, influencing generations of students and many others from that point forward. A main inspiration for the book was Franz Leopold Neumann’s book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came into a position of power in a democratic state like Germany. Behemoth had a major impact on Mills and he claimed that Behemoth had given him the “tools to grasp and analyze the entire total structure and as a warning of what could happen in a modern capitalist democracy”.
According to Mills, the power elites of the USA, in other words, our haute bourgeois who control the three dominant institutions (military, economy and political system) can be generally grouped into one of six types:
• the Metropolitan 400 – members of historically notable local families in the principal American cities, generally represented on the Social Register
• Celebrities – prominent entertainers and media personalities
• the Chief Executives – presidents and CEOs of the most important companies within each industrial sector
• the Corporate Rich – major landowners and corporate shareholders
• the Warlords – senior military officers, most importantly the Joint Chiefs of Staff
the Political Directorate – “fifty-odd men of the executive branch” of the U.S. federal government, including the senior leadership in the Executive Office of the President, sometimes variously drawn from elected officials of the Democratic and Republican parties but usually professional government bureaucrats.
Mills’ biographer, Daniel Geary, writes that Mills’ writings had a “particularly significant impact on New Left social movements of the 1960s.”] It was Mills who popularized the term New Left in the U.S. in a 1960 open letter, Letter to the New Left.
Mills acknowledged a general influence of Marxism; he noted that Marxism had become an essential tool for sociologists and therefore all must naturally be educated on the subject; any Marxist influence was then a result of sufficient education. Neo-Freudianism also helped shape Mills’ work. Mills was an intense student of philosophy before he became a sociologist and his vision of radical, egalitarian democracy was a direct result of the influence of ideas from Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead. Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes dedicated his novel The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) to Mills, “true voice of North America, friend and companion in the struggle of Latin America.” Fuentes was a fan of Mills’ writing on the Cuban Revolution called, Listen, Yankee. He appreciated Mills’ insight into what he believed Cubans were experiencing as citizens of a country undergoing revolutionary change.

Civil Rights: From Politics of Reform to Revolution
From CORE and SNCC to The Black Panther Party and other revolutionary organizations
Noble Bratton
February 21, 28, March 7, 14
Noble Bratton will conduct a 3-week history of the Civil Rights movement with CORE, SNCC and analyzing the growing militancy in African-American life that led to the revolutionary politics of The Black Panther Party as the 60s developed.
Noble Bratton is a graduate of Cornell University and is on the editorial board of Working USA/Labor and Society. He taught a class on the US Presidency at The Brecht Forum. He has participated with the Leo Downes Harlem Y Study Group. He is also a former member of District Council 65 of the UAW, UNITE Local 169.

Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man
With one discussion with Peter Marcuse
March 21, 28, April 4

“The free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”
― Herbert Marcuse

As UK theorist Andrew Robinson states: “Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man was written in 1962, but much of it reads as if it could have been written today: the flattening of discourse, the pervasive repression behind a veil of ‘consensus’, the lack of recognition for perspectives and alternatives beyond the dominant frame, the closure of the dominant universe of meaning, the corrosion of established liberties and lines of escape, total mobilization against a permanent Enemy built into the system as a basis for conformity and effort… It was product of a previous period of downturn and decomposition, similar in many ways to our own.”

We will read through Marcuse’s work and have a discussion with his son Peter regarding the importance of One-Dimensional Man during the sixties, considered one of the most influential works on the left and in the student movements the world over, and look at how the book resonates today, following fifty years of the march of capitalist globalization and the repressive aspects of consumerist culture, far more pervasive than could have been imagined in the early 60s when One-Dimensional Man was written.

Sessions B: April 11 through June 26
12 week session

Sartre’s Search for a Method
Dan Karan

April 11, 18, 25, May 2

John Paul Sartre was one of the most important radical intellectuals of the 20th century yet he is largely forgotten or ignored by most Marxists and others on “the left.” This, despite the fact that as a philosopher, playwright, novelist, essayist and political activist Sartre’s primary concerns surrounded questions of individual freedom, choice and action (in his early career) and the relationship between individual freedom and collective good (in his later career) and developing a method for understanding history, the structure of class struggle and the fate of mass movements and popular revolt. Ronald Hayman, one of Sartre’s biographers, summarizes Sartre’s intellectual project as follows:

“As a Marxist he wanted to believe that dialectical materialism offered a complete interpretation of history – that all the contradictions, conflicts, heterogeneities, anomalies could be subsumed in a single totalization. Sartre is simultaneously concerned to provide Marxism with an adequate theory of knowledge, both Marx and Lenin had worked without one – and to combat the Heideggarian existentialism which consistently makes Being its point of departure. Sartre insists that history is the history of human initiatives. What emerges as the crucial problem is how to map the jungle of obscure connections between historical movements and individual actions.”

This 4 to 5 week section of the sessions will focus on Sartre’s 1957 text, Search For A Method, which reflects his growth from existentialist philosopher concerned with individual freedom to an anti-authoritarian existential Marxist who believed that individual freedom can only come about via one’s commitment to the collective good. Search for a Method consists of three major parts: The first part discusses Marxist and existentialist views of the world; the second, how the individual relates to structures; and, the third develops a methodology for understanding the individual, history and structures.

Dan Karan has been studying Marxism for 40 years and was a student of John Gerassi, Sartre’s official biographer.

The Anti-Psychiatry Movement
Michael Pelias
May 9
Behind the anti-psychiatry movement that came to life in the 1960s and blossomed during the 1970s was the fundamental post-Freudian work of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential psychoanalysis. This highly creative approach by Sartre was named “existential psychoanalysis” and was first articulated at the end of the classic , Being and Nothingness (1943). We will read a selection of this new approach to psychic individuation alongside the Laing/Cooper nexus that sprung the anti-psychiatry movement and resulted in open psychiatric institutions, mental health liberation activity, and a ongoing critique of “bourgeois” psychiatry and contemporary behaviorism, cognitive and psycho-pharmacological approaches to the question of what is mental health. We will also look at Laing’s famous proposition that schizophrenia is the sanest reaction to capitalism and engage the schizoid- analysis of Deleuze and Guattari alongside the anti-psychiatry moment of Basaglia and Radio Alice in Italy.

Michael Pelias teaches both ancient and modern Philosophy at LIU Brooklyn and is one of the co-founders of the Institute for the Radical Imagination and co-managing editor of the journal Situations.

Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade
May 16
From Brittanica: “Weiss was a Marxist and an exponent of the Theatre of Cruelty: his stated theatrical purpose was to shock his audiences into suffering and atoning for the violent insanity of modern society. The play is set in 1808 and concerns a performance by members of the asylum in which the Marquis de Sade was incarcerated from 1801 to 1814. At the warden’s suggestion, de Sade directs his fellow inmates in a dramatic re-creation of the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat in 1793. What follows is an intense dialectical contest between de Sade and Marat. According to Weiss, de Sade personifies anarchy, self-indulgence, and individualism, while Marat, a pre-Marxist revolutionary, believes that the end justifies the means, no matter how violent the means may be.”
We will read, watch and discuss.

Paris, May 1968
Mitch Abidor

May 23, 30
These talks will investigate the events May 68 in France through an analysis of the writings of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the most important and interesting of its leaders, as well as the experiences of rank and file militants interviewed by Mitch Abidor for his forthcoming oral history, May Made Me.
Mitchell Abidor is the principal French translator for the Marxists Internet Archive and has published several collections of his translations, among them Jean Jaurès’ Socialist History of the French Revolution and A Raskolnikoff by Emmanuel Bove, and previously untranslated works by Victor Serge and Daniel Guerin, as well as writings from the French Revolution, are forthcoming. His May Made Me will appear in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the May events in France.

A Night of 60s Music on D-Day
The Blues meet Hootenany/Stax Volt versus Motown/Brit Invasion/Psychedelic Revolutionary Flower Powered Invasion of Aural space the world over/Funk your Delic and Blast Your Moonbeams Surfin’ the Country East from the Dirty Charles River water to the Byrd fly over the Rio Grande: A Movement learns to get on the good foot
To all [un]fortunate daughters and sons: “bring your favorite 60s music moment”
June 6

Jeff Nuttall’s Bomb Culture
June 13

Bomb Culture, Jeff Nuttall’s 1968 chronicle of the emergence of internationalist counter-culture in Britain, remains a primary source and manifesto for the post-Hiroshima generation.
“The vision of Jeff’s youth was grounded in “a faith that, given liberation, the human spirit would predominate. I imagined some kind of stone age village. People would build their own houses imaginatively and live there sophisticatedly and in a literate way and they would live with their hands and their minds and they would not be dictated to by anybody selling them anything. People would have the opportunity of coming into their true self, which was generous and creative and permissive”. —The Guardian

“Disaffiliation was deliberate, and conscious, even self-conscious, among the demonstrators who appreared in the fifties—unavoidably, disaffiliation is a prerequisite of protest.” —Jeffrey Nuttall, Bomb Culture

Che Guevara/Regis Debray
Revolution in the Revolution Revisited

June 20, 27
“In 1965 there appeared Debray’s article, “Latin America: the Long March,” which began his break with official Stalinism. (In 1967, there appeared an article, “Marxist Strategy in Latin America,” which was written in 1965 and rarely supplements the earlier article. Both appeared in New Left Review, Nos. 33 and 45.) Essentially he interprets the Cuban revolution to mean that the revolutionary “foco,” that is, guerrilla center, must be substituted for the vanguard party. He lists the many revolutionary experiences that were made in many South American countries, he describes the defeats and the victories, and he draws certain conclusions. In two years tha realities of the struggle destroyed his analysis and he proceeded to rewrite the analysis. This is what has appeared as Revolution In the Revolution? A comparison of the two works provides a valuable critique of Debray and an introduction to a theory of revolution for South America.”
—Martin Glaberman, Regis Debray: Revolution Without a Revolution, 1968

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