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What We Can Learn from Our ‘Radical’ Past


What We Can Learn from Our ‘Radical’ Past

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Author Gore Vidal liked to call this country “the United States of Amnesia.” Even more so than other places, our country has been formed not by what it chooses to remember of its own past, but by what it chooses to forget.

In such a country, simply to remember is itself a radical act. It is to refuse to submit to the blinders that the powers that be are always trying to slip onto the rest of us. It is to subvert, implicitly or otherwise, the tyranny of the present — to insist on expanding the realm of the possible.


The past shows how important and difficult it is to build institutions that serve people. Today, the unions and the press are nearly dead and the right controls religion and the marketplace, and educated liberals sold out. Fear wins. Dumb wins. Blind obedience wins. We are much more like the Europeans of 1914 now - collectively insane. Dig those trenches now, we will need them.


In the fall of 1969 while on the campus of the University of Maryland, my brother and I chose to attend a meeting we saw posted on a flier, which was being hosted by the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and was being held in one of the university buildings right off the mall.

During the meeting, a representative of the Weatherman organization spoke as well. Their goal was to create a clandestine revolutionary party for the overthrow of the U.S.Government.

Needless to say, my brother and I were not there to plan the overthrow of the government.

However, it became clear about 6 months later when the campus exploded in violence after many students protesting the Vietnam War began occupying various university buildings and culminated when a group shut down both lanes of traffic (two lanes each way) going in and out of College Park, by piling old car tires about 5 feet high in all lanes, and set them on fire. It burned most of the night.

The police and National Guard showed up the next morning with tear gas and rubber bullets.They met resistance from many who were there to fight.

The campus was shut down for days.

While most of America was asleep about the carnage going on in Southeast Asia, many students risked life and limb to help wake them up.

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew called us 'Bums.'

My mom and dad, who were lifelong Republicans began to wake up and realize their sons were standing for bringing an end to the mass murder in Vietnam.

I hope and pray that I never see that level of violence again, however, if this or any other administrations move to restrict the freedom of speech in this country, I will gladly join the ranks of those willing to stand up for that right.


"In an era of universal deceit, telling the truth is considered a radical act" - George Orwell


Typical van den Heuvel, moaning about the state of the Nation that she exacerbated, by not helping Bernie, and then mentioning him, now, only critically.


William Kenney here. Revolutionary! Head Hetman of the Radical Revolutionary Rebel Resistance, of my mind, at least. I like to study the "Fire Eaters", mostly from The Carolinas, pushed the country into civil war. Its hard to believe there were people that were willing to give up their lives for the perverted right to enslave their fellow man! Now Abolition/Emancipation has a new face: Fossil Fuels and Cannabis!


Perhaps the thing that has been forgotten in the progressive struggle to formulate a message is the realization that without an organizing principle it becomes an endless uphill slog to an unclear destination. Any mission is reduced to a long grocery list of demands made in supplication to the existing power structure.

As long as progressives continue to back in to every political conversation with an extractive message, we will only serve to highlight the fact we are devoid of vision. Quite frankly, we will bore the socks off of people who are tired of hearing the same old extemporaneous screed. It is a message that has become unmoored from economic prosperity and a more egalitarian distribution of economic power. This power was due to the relative strength of unions as a counterpoint to corporate power and a tamed and regulated system of finance. It assumes there is still wealth to share in the wasteland that is post-industrial America.

We need a new progressive vision that rises above the grocery list but is an organizing principle that can contain it. People need to know where progressivism intends to take them. What we have is a Democratic party that appears to be keeping its feet firmly planted in the New Deal past and seems to actively work against the emergence of a true vision for the future. It has been compromised by its flirtation with Clintonian neoliberalism. We need to eradicate all traces of neoliberalism from our philosophy in the aftermath of its abject failure as a working model for an economy. The collusion of so-called progressives with Wall Street can no longer be tolerated.

What we need is a new economic vision. The elements of this vision for the future are there and ready to be synthesized into a coherent message that can encompass all existing elements of a progressive mission. It remains to be seen if any progressive has the courage to step forward and elucidate it.


Yes, we will and more than likely, from our own people... I WAS of the mind to fight... against the attacks on ... environment, civil rights, class and gender injustice... but ya" know..... with all the PAST struggle, to end up with this maniac in charge, shows just how there is always, one step forward and two/three steps back ward... WELL, FOLKS.... that makes our climate situation a done deal... it really, already was... but now... the tar has been poured on to seal the road to annihilation. Don't think so?>.. it doesn't matter if you do or not. Doesn't change the reality coming down the pike. Got METHANE?