David Mills quotes from a 1967 exchange between the socialist writers Philip Rahv and Irving Howe, on the failures of the New Left to offer a focused, effective critique of the system they opposed. Read it for yourself, and you may understand why to Peter Berger, who was around at the time, OWS seems like the same old song.
Because some of my readers get ticked off at me for griping about OWS’s failures, even though I share their anger at the Wall Street-Washington nexus, I’d like to once again associate myself with these remarks of David’s from his essay earlier this week:
The loss of a left worth engaging hurts the country, not because that left will answer the questions of the moment, but because the country needs the challenges only the left will (at the moment) provide. The mainstream right will not challenge those who’ll exploit the system for their own ends, and exploit others for their own profit, because so many have off-loaded their moral thinking to the market. Nor, not in a million years, will the Republican Party.
That may be one of the worst results of the sixties, that the politics of gesture and emotion have been privileged, as the academics put it, which means a politics with no actual political content will drive a publicly successful movement like Occupy Wall Street—even though it is not going anywhere in particular.