Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Though this article does not focus solely on the Activism of Mexican Immigrants/Mexican Americans, it does question whether 1960s activism in general was good for the country. As in pre | WriteDen

Though this article does not focus solely on the Activism of Mexican Immigrants/Mexican Americans, it does question whether 1960s activism in general was good for the country. As in pre

Though this article does not focus solely on the Activism of Mexican Immigrants/Mexican Americans, it does question whether 1960s activism in general was good for the country. As in previous other PRO/CON articles, there are 2 sides to this argument. How does each Historian support their argument. What is the evidence, if any, used by that historian. 

11/16/22, 10:03 AM Topic: Discussion 12 – Did Activism in the 1960s produce a better Nation

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Discussion 12 – Did Activism in the 1960s produce a better Nation

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Though this article does not focus solely on the Activism of Mexican Immigrants/Mexican Americans, it does question whether 1960s activism in general was good for the country. As in previous other PRO/CON articles, there are 2 sides to this argument. How does each Historian support their argument. What is the evidence, if any, used by that historian.

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vo_l. ?<-, 19_6!-1963; and Foreign Relations of the United States, "Cuban Missile Cnsis and Aftermath," vol. XI, 1961-1963. See www.state.gov/

Docume~ts Rel~tin~ to American Foreign Policy: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a website mam~amed by Mount Holyoke College. The collection includes d~c~men~s: lmks, and other historical materials concerning the Cuban missile cnsis. See www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/cuba.htm

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ISSUE /0 … ~

~ Did the Activism of the 1960s

Produce a Better Nation?

YES: Terry H. Anderson, from The Sea Change (Oxford University

Press, 1995)

NO: Peter Clecak, from The New Left (Harper & Row, 1973)

Learning Outcomes

After reading this issue, you should be able to:

• Define the term "New Left" as it applies to the 1960s. • Summarize the main goals of the Port Huron Statement. • Evaluate the legacy of the Students for a Democratic Society

(SDS) and the Youth International Party ("Yippies"). • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the New Left critique

of American society. • Compare and contrast the political and cultural rebels of the

1960s in terms of their leadership, goals, strategies, and level of success in affecting change.

ISSUE SUMMARY

YES: Terry H. Anderson concludes that the activism of the 1960s in­ spired citizens of all types to demand changes that produced a trans­ formation of American politics, society, culture, and foreign power and made the United States a more democratic and inclusive nation.

NO: Peter Clecak contends that the political and cultural revolu­ tionaries of the 1960s failed to revolutionize themselves or Ameri­ can society and quickly discovered that, without a clear program, viable organizations, or a significant constituency, they were essen­ tially powerless against the prevailing social order.

In the summer of 1960, a University of Michigan undergraduate named Tom Hayden, who served as an editor for his campus newspaper, the Michigan Daily, made a trip to California. He paid a visit to the University of California

361

at Berkeley before making his way to Los Angeles to cover the Democratic National Convention. In Los Angeles, Hayden was captivated by the idealistic energy and enthusiasm for change articulated by young Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy, who became the Democratic Party's nominee for president of the United States. Only a few months before, Hayden had joined with a hand­ ful of his campus associates in Ann Arbor to resurrect an almost defunct stu­ dent organization-the Student League for Industrial Democracy-that traced its roots to an early twentieth-century student group founded by the Socialist writer Upton Sinclair. Changing the name of their organization to Students for a Democratic Society, these young campus activists established connections with participants of the ongoing college student sit-ins, whom they admired for the ferocity of their commitment to eliminating segregation in southern public accommodations in order to bring racial democracy to Dixie. Follow­ ing his Michigan graduation in 1961, Hayden headed south to represent SDS in support of the newly established and largely African American Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) organizing efforts, and he was beaten and jailed while participating in civil rights activities. (Hayden eventu­ ally served for nearly two decades in the California legislature and is currently a political activist and writer for The Nation.)

The creators of SDS envisioned their organization as a think tank compris­ ing talented activists from the nation's elite universities and colleges. Many of the early members were "red-diaper babies"-the children of American Communist parents who had comprised the Old Left of the 1930s and 1940s, whose support of the Soviet Union, however, had diminished in the wake of news reports of the Stalinist purges in which millions of Russians perished at the hands of the totalitarian state, as well as in response to the firestorm of anti-Communist hys­ teria associated with the early years of the Cold War. Propelled by family ideolo­ gies along with encouragement from intellectuals such as C. Wright Mills, who insisted that a "new left" should be led by students on the nation's campuses, SDS members sought to champion radical democratic values, and Tom Hayden took up the task of outlining the group's purpose and goals. At a conference convened at a United Auto Workers' educational camp in Port Huron, Michigan, in June 1962, Hayden penned a manifesto that expressed concern over the inconsisten­ cies between ideals and reality that he observed in the United States: racial dis­ crimination in a country dedicated to equality; growing affluence while millions resided in poverty; discussion of the benefits of nuclear power amidst fears of nuclear destruction; and presidential statements about America's peaceful inten­ tions while the Kennedy Administration poured more and more dollars into the nation's military budget. This "Port Huron Statement" presented a clarion call for a new ideology of change, demanding that college students abandon the apathy of the 1950s and seek to transform society through the application of participa­ tory democracy and mass protest emanating from college campuses. The univer­ sity, after all, was a place where ideas should be openly debated. Or was it?

In 1964, the Free Speech Movement erupted on the Berkeley campus when the university's administration attempted to prohibit students from handing out fliers encouraging participation in voter registration projects in the South. Mario Savio, a graduate student who had recently returned from

362

the Mississippi Freedom Summer, emerged as one of the key leaders of this California campus protest, which resulted in the occupation of administrative offices and mass arrests, activities that would be repeated at Berkeley and on many other campuses over the course of the decade.

These challenges to university policies reflected a broader rejection of authority by members of the "baby boom" generation, many of whom, like the members of SDS, were questioning the legitimacy of The Establishment in a variety of forms: the university; the family; the federal government; and corporate America. In his book, The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition (Doubleday, 1968), historian Theodore Roszak attempted to articulate a context for what was going on. Targeting what he labeled the "technocracy," which seemed arbitrarily to restrain individual initiative and imagination, Roszak concluded that "the primary project of our counter culture is to proclaim a new heaven and a new earth so vast, so marvelous that the inordinate claims of technical expertise must of necessity withdraw to a subordinate and marginal status in the lives of men." In addition, Roszak contributed to our understanding of the counter culture by describing two groups of rebels: the political rebels of the New Left and the sociocultural rebels (or "hippies") whose alienation from mainstream culture was leading them to drop out of society and to seek solace in a parallel lifestyle of hallucinogenic drugs and communal living.

Many Americans insisted that this youth rebellion was little more than people behaving very badly, and these attitudes were reinforced as the protest­ ers took to the streets in response to the expanding involvement of the United States in the Southeast Asian conflict. Scholars continue to debate the extent to which antiwar activists influenced the Vietnam policies of either the Johnson or Nixon administrations, but there is little doubt that the opposition to the war began to draw to a close once the protests returned to campus in 1970. First, at Kent State University, Ohio National Guardsmen were summoned by Governor James Rhodes to quell an uprising that had led to the burning of the campus ROTC building-fueled by media reports about "secret" exten­ sions of the Vietnam conflict. On May 4, the soldiers opened fire on students, killing four and wounding nine others-some but not all of them involved in a protest against escalation of the war into Cambodia. Almost four months later, four young domestic terrorists bombed the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, killing a postdoctoral physicist and causing $6 million damage. Columnist George Will characterized the incident as "the Hiroshima of the New Left."

For many who came of age during the 1960s, there is a tendency to ideal­ ize the decade as one in which young Americans sought to remake the lethal culture of their parents. Critics of the counter cultural rebellion see little to applaud. In the YES and NO selections, Terry Anderson and Peter Clecak offer sharply different appraisals of the activism of the 1960s. Anderson believes that the 1960s produced a positive transformation of American politics, society, cul­ ture, and foreign policy resulting in a more democratic and tolerant society. Minority groups benefited from a legal and political revolution that destroyed Jim Crow, and women gained far greater access to political and economic power.

363

He concludes that the New Left effectively destroyed the Cold War political cul­ ture by challenging its authority and inspiring Americans to demand change in many areas of life.

Clecak, on the other hand, argues that radicals in the 1960s failed to revolutionize themselves or their society and largely remained powerless to shape the prevailing social order. Organizations like Students for a Democratic Society fell far short of realizing their egalitarian ideals, demonstrating that it is easier to craft a statement of political goals than to carry those goals to frui­ tion. In the end, according to Clecak, these activists had little to offer in terms of ethical or political insight into contemporary American problems.

YES +J Terry H. Anderson

The Sea Change

… Whatever one thinks of the sixties, the tumultuous era cracked the cold war culture and the nation experienced a sea change-a significant trans­ formation in politics, society, culture, and foreign policy. The legacies of that era are worthy of another book, one that would detail recent trends in the nation's history, and thus be as controversial as the popular debate over whether the sixties were "good or bad" or the academic arguments over race, gender, and equality. Since that book is not possible here, this chapter will offer some gener­ alizations about the legacies of the movement and the sixties.

The political legacies of the sixties were apparent to anyone watching the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City. African American Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Houston gave a stirring opening address, and black Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles and Chicano Governor Jerry Apodaca of New Mexico were selected as two co-chairs of the convention. Grace Olivarez, a Chicana feminist from New Mexico, presented the welfare reform plank to the platform. Cesar Chavez delivered the nominating speech for youthful California Governor Jerry Brown, and also from that state was delegate Tom Hayden. The eventual nominee, Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia, represented the end of Jim Crow-in the November election both white and black southerners voted for the same candidate for the first time, delivering the presidency to the first man from the Deep South since before the Civil War.

That bicentennial year also revealed the impact of the new left, although those activists had been grumbling since the 1968 election that they had failed to bring about a "revolution," a New America. In 1962 they had set a course for the nation in The Port Huron Statement, which condemned racial bigotry, anti­ Communist paranoia, popular complacency, corporate irresponsibility, and a remote control government and economy controlled by power elites. Those activists failed to interest the majority in long-term efforts to reduce poverty, reform welfare, or curtail the military-industrial complex. Nevertheless, they succeeded in destroying cold war political culture. Americans no longer live in a society that fears change, that suspects dissent. Activists buried McCarthyism. Demonstrations have become routine. Authorities are questioned, scrutinized, and that has changed official behavior. Government offices are open for public inspection, and activists altered police tactics. No longer are protesters beaten.

From The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee by Terry H. Anderson (1995), pp. 412-415, 416-423. Copyright© 1995 by Terry H. Anderson. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, Ltd.

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366 ISSUE 15 I Did the Activism of the 1960s Produce a Better Nation?

Police are more educated and integrated; they are trained in crowd control, and they work at improving their relations with all in the community. Because of political activists, empowerment is taken for granted.

The new left also influenced the Democratic party. In 1896, William Jennings Bryan co-opted the Populist party platform of 1892 and thus transformed the Democrats into the party of reform. Eighty years later the Democrats did the same, embracing ideas expressed in The Port Huron State­ ment. Since then, they have become the party of civil rights, personal freedom, environmentalism, corporate responsibility, and a foreign policy emphasizing human rights. Moreover, political activists of the 1960s pried open democracy, which earlier reformers had done by extending the vote during the Jacksonian and progressive eras. This time, the movement wrestled political control from white males who for years had been negotiating alone behind closed doors. Activists revived the old progressive idea, You can fight city hall, and what activ­ ist Bo Burlingham noted in 1976 will remain pertinent for some years: "The con­ vulsions of the last decade have produced something that has fundamentally altered the terms of American politics … change is both possible and necessary."

The movement inspired citizens of all types to express their democratic rights, to demand change, and that included conservatives. The backlash began as a response to blacks marching for their civil rights and to students making demands on campus. The struggle raised issues of integration and equal employment opportunity, and that contributed to white flight to the suburbs and charges of "reverse discrimination." Because of race issues, many white working men deserted the party that had boosted and represented them, the Democratic, and became conservatives who voted Republican. The coun­ terculture and women's movement shocked other citizens and they joined the backlash: Phyllis Schlafly and her campaign Stop ERA; Anita Bryant and her crusade against sexual liberation; and a host of others who appeared as tel­ evangelists on the "700 Club," "Praise the Lord Club," and "The Old-Time Gospel Hour"-conservatives who reached the zenith of their popularity dur­ ing the first administration of the "Reagan Revolution."

Ronald Reagan's triumph in 1980 did not overturn the 1960s; there was no return to 1950s America. While the president was very popular, the majority of citizens did not honor his call for traditional social roles or support his environmental views, cold war foreign policy, or attempts to dismantle civil rights legislation and defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

In fact, sixties political values marched on during the 1980s, and a central theme since has been inclusion. Every primary campaign and con­ vention since has included delegates representing all Americans. Jimmy Carter named more women and minorities to his administration than any previous president, and by 1984 civil rights activist Jesse Jackson had formed his Rainbow Coalition and was running for the Democratic nomination for president. That year female Representative Geraldine Ferraro accepted the party's vice presidential nomination. Republican presidents during the 1980s named Hispanics, African Americans, and women to their Cabinets and to the Supreme Court, and a member of the sixties generation, Bill Clinton, pledged and then appointed a Cabinet that would "look more like America." The long era of white men exclusively controlling the body politic was over.

YES I Terry H. Anderson 367

America became multicultural-a legacy of the struggle. For minorities, the sixties were a legal and political revolution. In just a few years minorities overturned centuries of legal inferiority and discrimination and obtained their rights guaranteed by the Constitution-an astounding achievement for any society. President Johnson proposed and Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Fair Housing Rights Act of 1968. With the support of the Supreme Court, the nation integrated politic facilities, ended all voting restrictions, and accepted the idea that men and women charged with a crime should be judged by a jury of their peers. The 1960s killed the legal system called Jim Crow, and since then citizens have witnessed the unprec­ edented election of people of all races and the rise of minority political power, from mayors and police chiefs of predominately white cities, to governors, Congress, the Cabinet, and the Supreme Court. Furthermore, Black Power advocates stimulated a flourishing of cultural pride that spread to Hispanics, Native Americans, and other ethnic groups, all of whom have embraced empowerment. The federal government answered ethnic demands by ruling against discriminatory practices by businesses and agencies and by enforcing bilingual ballots and education. Ultimately, the struggle challenged Anglo America, and the result was a new definition of "American."

The struggle also diminished stereotyping and racism. That was appar­ ent as early as 1975 when a Cabinet member, Earl Butz, made a racist joke and was forced to resign. Since then, a black leader who was hated by millions, mistrusted by presidents, harassed by the FBI, and assassinated-Martin Luther King, Jr.-has become a national icon. Congress established a federal holiday observing his birthday, placing him on equal footing with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Numerous opinion polls since have demonstrated that racism as measured by slurs and stereotypes has declined, especially among the young. Compare white racial convictions before and after the 1960s. Attitudes that had been held for centuries have changed considerably, have become more tolerant. Television programs and movies today depicting minorities would not have been possible without the struggle, and school textbooks are more inclusive than at any time in our history. Opinion polls in the 1990s demonstrated that whites and blacks, three to one, felt that race relations have improved since the 1960s and two-thirds felt that the nation has made signifi­ cant progress. "There's room for improvement," stated black restaurant owner W. A. Mathis in 1994 about race relations in Mississippi, "but it's 99 percent better than it used to be." …

The legacy of the struggle is clouded by the issue of race, but the impact made by student activism on the American university is more apparent. The sixties generation of students raised fundamental questions: Who controls the university? What rights do students have? What are appropriate courses for a college degree? Activism disrupted and then changed campus life, and at most colleges, gone are the days of in loco parentis, the barracks regimented dormitory life, the mandate that the administration rules and the students are ruled. What Mount Holyoke College activist Julie Van Camp stated in 1969 remains valid: "After Columbia a lot of administrators got a rude awakening, but they also realized that many of the student grievances were valid. So now when we want change we a aren't going up against a stone wall any more. It's

368 ISSUE 15 1 Did the Activism of the 1960s Produce a Better Nation?

more like a mattress." Administrators became more flexible, students received more choice, and activism has been apparent whenever moral issues arise, as demonstrated by the anti-apartheid crusades of the 1980s.

Furthermore, students in the various power movements challenged an education based on male European civilization, provoking administrators to develop new classes on African American, Chicano, Native American, Jewish, and women's studies. That prompted a debate. "About the sixties it is now fashionable to say that although there were indeed excesses, many good things resulted," wrote professor Allan Bloom in 1987. "But, so far as universities are concerned, I know of nothing positive coming from that period; it was an unmitigated disaster for them." Conservatives complain about a seemingly endless debate over what is and what is not politically correct. Others, how­ ever, note that the debate demonstrates that the movement brought about more sensitivity about language, and they note that activists forced changes in the educational experience that resulted in new scholarship on new topics for a multicultural America. Whatever the case, students of the sixties confronted the educational establishment, and the result was more personal freedom on campus, and a broader college curriculum, than at any time in history.

The legacies of the antiwar movement also are mired in debate. As North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon in 1975, Americans sank into resentment, cynicism, the willed attempt to forget the long nightmare. Depression and denial. "The United States did not lose the war," proclaimed Hubert Humphrey in 1975. "The South Vietnamese did." Within a few years neo-conservatives were adopting a new approach. Actually, the war was, President Reagan declared in 1982, a "noble cause," and a few years later Richard Nixon reinter­ preted his own policy: "On January 27, 1973, when Secretary of State William Rogers signed the Paris peace agreements, we had won the war in Vietnam. We had attained the one political goal for which we had fought the war: The South Vietnamese people would have the right to determine their own politi­ cal future." He and many conservatives claimed that the United States lost the war because wimpy liberals forced his administration to end aid to South Vietnam. Our troops were stabbed in the back by cowardly congressmen, an idea popularized after every defeat, and one boosted this time by actors in numerous "Rambo" and "missing in action" movies. Although these actors and almost all of the young neo-conservatives avoided service in Vietnam, their ideas were warmly received by many who wanted someone to blame and by those who desired to accept another nationalistic myth instead of cruel fact. But in fact, by 1970 two-thirds of citizens wanted to withdraw from South Vietnam even if that nation fell to the North, a figure that increased to 80 percent as the last U.S. troops came home in 1973. Congress was only rep­ resenting the views of the electorate. Furthermore, after the Cambodian inva­ sion there were no Rambos in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. "By 70," recalled General Norman Schwartzkopf, "it was over …. Everyone wanted to get out." Indeed, antiwar activism inside the military was rampant. Americans at home did not want to continue the conflict, and G.I.s in the war zone had little desire to risk their lives. Eventually, even to the great silent majority, Vietnam was not a noble cause, but a lost one. "Nobody was sorry to hear the war

YES I Terry H. Anderson 369

was over," wrote Jerry Rubin. "And even more amazing, nobody asked, 'Who won?' Nobody gave a fuck."

But citizens did care about future foreign policy, for Vietnam taught two lessons: America is not invincible; in that sense, the Vietnamese killed the John Waynes. Second, the presidents and their wise men who direct foreign policy cannot be trusted. While Americans have supported the commander-in-chief in short military operations, they also have continually expressed skepticism about intervention in foreign lands. Citizens had cast aside the 1950s ideas of containment and the Domino Theory even before the demise of the Soviet Union. Despite Ronald Reagan's popularity, citizens two to one opposed his attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and his sta­ tioning of only 55 army advisers in El Salvador. George Bush understood the popular mood, promising that the allied intervention to liberate Kuwait was "no~ another Vietnam," and then withdrawing U.S. troops as soon as feasible, endmg Desert Storm.

The antiwar movement alone did not end U.S. participation in Vietnam, but it did provoke citizens out of cold war allegiance, it generated and focused public opposition, and influenced presidents Johnson and Nixon. After all, LBJ quit his job and Nixon withdrew from Vietnam, actions incompatible with their personalities and inconceivable without the antiwar movement. Protest­ ers also prompted citizens to raise questions about their nation's foreign pol­ icy, and so, the sixties killed the Imperial Presidency. The commander-in-chief since has not had the power to order U.S. troops to fight in foreign lands with­ out citizens asking, Why? Is U.S. involvement necessary, is it in the national interest? True, the quick Desert Storm war was popular. It also had interna­ tional support and was approved by Congress, itself a legacy of the movement. But one wonders how much activism and counterculture behavior would have resurfaced if the desert campaign would have forced the reintroduction of the draft and lasted three years, just a third of the length of Vietnam. In this sense then, the antiwar movement was victorious, for as historian George Herring stated: "The conventional wisdom in the military is that the United States won every battle but lost the war. It could be said of the antiwar movement that it lost every battle but eventually won the war-the war for America's minds and especially for its soul."

The movement also won a new armed force. The resistance publicized a discriminatory Selective Service, and that along with an unpopular war, forced Nixon to abolish the system and establish a lottery, eventually leading to a volunteer armed forces that has freed young men from a staple of cold war culture-two years of military service. On campus, ROTC training is no longer mandatory. Because of G.I. resistance within the services, the brass tossed out numerous "Mickey Mouse regulations" and erected a more flexible and espe­ cially professional U.S. military. The Old Army became the New Army.

The movement changed other American institutions. Many religious denominations today are more concerned about social ills, more active in their communities, and more integrated, while the number of alternative beliefs has expanded and is more accepted. Sixties activists raised old questions concern­ ing business: What is more important, personal and community or private and

370 ISSUE 15 1 Did the Activism of the 1960s Produce a Better Nation?

corporate rights? What is legitimate corporate behavior? By challengi~g. ~he establishment the movement provoked a return to business social responsibility. Corporations 'since have increased their visibility in communities, ~nd their advertisements often attempt to convince the public that they are envuonmen­ tally aware and good citizens. Executives of old companies and some new busi­ nesses have become involved in progressive politics, from Ben and Jerry's to Working Assets. Finally, companies have changed their hiring. patter_ns. Giving applicants an equal opportunity was a fundamental change. m b~smess prac­ tices, affecting many occupations, and according to one busmess ~ournal, ne,;" positions

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