Two Veterans of the New Left Reveal a Familiar Blindspot

Born into Jewish Communist families, Richard Flacks and his wife Mickey both left the Kremlin-backed Communist Party of the USA in the late 1950s, following Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech” revealing Stalinist crimes, and became prominent figures in the emerging New Left. The couple eventually settled in Santa Barbara, California, where Richard joined the university’s sociology department and the couple committed themselves to building “socialism in one city.” In his review of their joint memoir, Making History, Making Blintzes, Harvey Klehr writes:

Both Mickey and Dick [as Richard calls himself in the memoir] joined Communist youth groups and attended Communist camps where the kids sang with Pete Seeger and idolized Paul Robeson. Growing up during the “Red Scare,” they felt alienated from an American society that was, as Mickey puts it, “capitalistic and corrupt, racist, anti-Semitic (or, if Jewish, self-hating), lowbrow, anti-intellectual, and generally and profoundly evil.” Dick’s parents lost their jobs after refusing to testify before committees investigating Communist influence among teachers (but both found employment in private schools). . . .

Yet their sensitivity about anti-Semitism is not particularly consistent:

Since Communism and social democracy have both failed, the couple calls for a new New Left based on the idea that “all social relations—both macro and micro—should enable everyone to participate in making the decisions that affect them.” The key, they say, is to capture the Democratic party and expel its corporate supporters and financiers. . . . Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, they believe, is evidence that socialists can transform America by focusing on concrete policies and avoiding inflammatory and divisive debates about ideology. They are also encouraged by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn’s new Labor party in England. Never mind that Corbyn is an anti-Semite.

That Communists and other enemies of democracy have insinuated themselves into organizations that once shunned them (the newest example is the emergence of a Communist caucus in the Democratic Socialists of America) is in part a consequence of the notion purveyed by Mickey and Dick Flacks that there are no enemies on the left.

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More about: American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Communism, History & Ideas, Jeremy Corbyn, New Left

Preliminary Takeaways from the New U.S. Peace Plan

Yesterday afternoon, the White House announced its long-awaited plan to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Shmuel Rosner zeroes in on its most important aspects and likely consequences:

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, Israeli politics, Peace Process