THE TROUBLES by Joseph Conlin

THE TROUBLES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A cranky reprise of the 1960s ""Movement""--in which Conlin argues 1) that the Movement's lack of Marxist ideology made it irrelevant and 2) its corruption of radical politics killed what was left of the Old (i.e. real) Left. Individual movement groups and developments are also charged variously with naivete, self-indulgence, an-ti-intellectualism, superficiality, laziness, stupidity, elitism, selfishness, anti-communism, and snobbery. There is some truth to some of this--but it is undercut here by Conlin's unwillingness to concede any legitimacy to the decade's events, as well as by his supercilious tone. He dates the Movement from the 1960 anti-HUAC demonstration in San Francisco when the privileged kids of the ""tad-lib"" intellectuals and civil rights activists (""Mom was a beatnik and Dad was colored"") had their first taste of police brutality. With a how-dare-you-do-that-to-me mentality, the New Left was born--rejecting ideology and building instead on ""radical personal disappointment."" The 1963 formation of Students for a Democratic Society provided the Movement with its ""central institution"" but did not give it a reasoned politics or a thought-out program. Instead, the students turned inward, and, as the self-styled oppressed, made the university a battleground (""the Movement 'transferred,' like a flunking chemistry major switching to psychology""). Conlin takes apart the black power and anti-war movements in a similar vein; he sees the anti-political Counterculture neutralized by labeling the hippies revolutionary--and absorbing them into the Movement along with everyone else. By 1960, the Movement's lack of substance had taken its toll, so it was easy for tough-minded Progressive Labor to divide and destroy SDS. The 1970 Kent State killings were the final blow: ""It was no fun fooling when the other side did not play fair."" Conlin's points are often well taken--but his absolutism and his outrage will alienate even the receptive reader.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1982
Publisher: Watts