If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left

If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left

by Maurice Isserman

SubjectsShachtman, MaxStudents for a Democratic societyDissent

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.03
  • Pages: 259
  • Publish Date: March 1st 1993 by University of Illinois Press
  • Isbn10: 0252063384
  • Isbn13: 9780252063381

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if you are interested in a history of the left and, more importantly, the continuity between the old left and the new left this book is for you.

This book seeks to understand the roots of radicalism in the 1960s by looking at the historical roots of that movement (the Old Left). Instead, he argues that the New Left emerged in the 1960s naturally due to Vietnam, threat of nuclear war, and the persistence of racism. 2.Chapters 1-4 examine the American Communist Party, the groups led by Max Shactman, the journal Dissent, and the Committee for Non-Violent Action. The emphasis on each is how these groups influenced and failed to influence the New Left that emerged in the late 1950s. Also, these groups significantly influenced the New Left. The deStalinization crisis was a critical development in the death of the Old Left and the birth of the New Left. For the first time there was dissent in the American ranks over the Soviet Communism policies. AS the CP lost members it left the door open for another group to gain control of the New Left. C.Max Shactman, A Sectarians Progress 1.No one in the 1950s attempted with such fervor to act as the midwife at the birth of the New Left. He was a sectarian leading small groups in the Communist party in America. 3.Dissent collided with the New Left in 1960. Dissent wanted to bridge the gap between the Old Left and the New but they could not. These organizations included on campus student clubs, the organization of the Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy, the continued growth of the civil rights movement, and sentiment among the rank and file unionists for an independent labor party. 3.The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy served as a kind of surrogate party of the New Left in the late 50s. (218) 7.The New Left learned valuable lessons from the Old Left: a distaste for ideological hairsplitting and rigidly centralizing organizations gave SDS a flexible and open style that made it well suited to take advantage of the idealism offered by the Civil Rights movement and the disenchantment with VN. 8.What the New Left failed to learn was how to take a patient, long-term approach to building movements; an emphasis on the importance of winning small victories; a willingness to work with others who held different views; a commitment to internal political education; an understanding of the need for a representative organizational structure that made the leaders responsible to their constituents rather than the priorities of the media. The inheritance from the Old Left to the New Left was one that took to heart those lessons that in the short run allowed it to grow spectacularly, but not the lessons that in the long run might have allowed it to survive fruitfully. 2.The New Left emerged naturally due to VN, the threat of nuclear war, and the persistence of racism. B.The New Left is continuous with the Old Left 1.The American Communist Party collapsed in 1956-58. 2.The Old Left leaders tried to shape a New Left. 3.Max Schactman was a sectarian (led small groups within the CP) who tried to be the midwife at the birth of the New Left. This attempt also failed to bridge the gap between Old and New Left. 4.The New Left failed to learn from the Old Left: They failed to take a patient long term approach; did not place an emphasis on small victories; did not have a commitment to internal political education.