Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Irving Howe and the New Left

Jonathan Derbyshire picks up on a piece in the Dec/Jan BookForum on Irving Howe. Derbyshire ends by quoting Howes's introduction to a 1970 collection entitled Beyond the New Left.
The first [phase of the New Left was one] of populist fraternity, stressing an idealistic desire to make real the egalitarian claims of the American tradition.... The main slogan of that moment -appealing but vague- was "participatory democracy." For those of us committed to democratic socialism, this first phase of the New Left was, despite occasional tactical blunders, a profoundly welcome and promising reinvigoration of American political life....

The second phase of the New Left signifies a sharp turn away: away from fraternal sentiment and back to ill-absorbed dogma, away from the shapelessness of "participatory democracy" and back to the rigidity of vanguard elites, away from the loving spirit of nonviolence and back to a quasi-Leninist fascination with violence....
We need a new new left (or a return to a left) that believes in participatory democracy; a left that believes in democratic, egalitarian and humane values; a left that refuses to support fascist militia groups; a left that believes in common ownership and universalism; a left that, above all, believes in democratic, egalitarian and humane values.

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