The Port Huron statement: not a product of "Puritans"

Colin Woodard:
Combining the utopia-seeking moral impulses of secularized Puritanism, the intellectual freedom of New Netherland, and the tolerant pacifism of the Midlands, the social movement sought to remake and improve the world by breaking down the very sorts of traditional institutions and social taboos Dixie whites were fighting to protect. The Port Huron Statement, a 1962 manifesto considered the founding document of this “youth movement,” was an amalgam of core Yankee and Midlander values.
This presumably would have been a surprise to the Irish Catholic and Jewish drafters of the statement.
In the 50 years since its initial publication, Hayden has attracted the bulk of media attention surrounding the Port Huron Statement. He wrote much of the original text and served as its high-profile articulator and leader of its execution. But it’s the lesser-known Robert Alan (Al) Haber, ’65, still living in Ann Arbor, who is credited as the “big brain,” the “visionary,” and the “indispensable element” of the student movement.

[Port Huron Statement turns 50]

Important founders of Jewish background included Al Haber, Richard Flacks, Steve Marx, Bob Ross, Mike Spiegel, Mike Klonsky, and Mark Rudd. Nearly half of the delegates to the 1966 SDS convention were Jews, and a number of Jews became SDS chapter presidents at major universities [. . .] Jews also made up a significant portion of the movements intellectual vanguard. [. . .]

Other analysts continued to emphasize the strong historic Jewish commitment to the left since European emancipation. [. . .] The left-wing historian Arthur Liebman has suggested that the young New Left Jews had inherited a tradition of radicalism from their parents and had been emersed in a whole network of socialist-inspired institutions since childhood. The sociologist Nathan Glazer supports Liebman's contention, adding that the radical secular tradition was reinforced by the strong emphasis on intellectual activity.

[Seth Forman. Blacks in the Jewish Mind: A Crisis of Liberalism.]

Mark Rudd on "Why were there so many Jews in SDS? (or, The Ordeal of Civility)":
the numbers on Jews in SDS are clear. The author Paul Berman, himself a Jewish veteran of Columbia SDS, in his excellent book, “A Tale of Two Utopias,” gives the following data from reliable sources: two-thirds of the white Freedom Riders who traveled to Mississippi were Jewish; a majority of the steering committee of the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement were Jewish; the SDS chapters at Columbia and the University of Michigan were more than half Jewish; at Kent State in Ohio, where only 5 percent of the student body was Jewish, Jews constituted 19 percent of the chapter. I might add a strange statistic which I became aware of in the course of two trips to Kent State to commemorate the events of May, 1970: three of the four students shot by the National Guard at Kent State were Jewish. This, of course, defies all odds. [. . .]

I invoke Roth to let you in on the insularity of the world I grew up in. My family carried the Jewish ghettos of Newark and Elizabeth with them to the suburbs. We may have lived in integrated neighborhoods, that is integrated with goyim (there were only a few blacks in the town) and we may have gone to integrated schools, (of course there were no blacks in my elementary school) but we were far from assimilated, if that means replacing a Jewish identity with an American one. At about the age of nine or ten I remember eating lunch at the house of a non-Jewish friend and reporting back that the hamburgers had onion and parsley in them. “Oh, that’s goyish hamburger,” my mother said. I lived a Philip Roth existence in which the distinction between Jews and gentiles was present in all things: having dogs and cats was goyish, for example, as was a church-sponsored hay-ride which I was invited to by the cute red-haired girl who sat in front of me in my seventh grade home-room. My parents didn’t allow me to go, and, since repression breeds resistance, that was probably a signal event in my career of fascination with shiksas and things goyish, a career which paralleled that of young Alexander Portnoy in “Portnoy’s Complaint.” [. . .]

I got to Columbia University as a freshman, age 18, in September, 1965, a few months after the United States attacked Vietnam with main force troops. There I found a small but vibrant anti-war movement. In my first semester I was recruited by David Gilbert, a senior who had written a pamphlet on imperialism for national SDS, Students for a Democratic Society. David was one of the founders of the Columbia SDS chapter, along with John Fuerst, the chapter Chairman. Both were Jewish, of course, as were my mentors and friends, Michael Josefowicz, Harvey Blume, Michael Neumann, and John Jacobs. Ted Kaptchuk and Ted Gold were Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Columbia SDS the year before I was elected Chairman, along with my Vice-Chairman, Nick Freudenberg. All of us were Jewish. It’s hard to remember the names of non-Jewish Columbia SDS’ers; it was as much a Jewish fraternity as Sammie. [. . .]

Identifying with the oppressed seemed to me at Columbia and since a natural Jewish value, though one we never spoke of as being Jewish. [. . .]

But World War II and the holocaust were our fixed reference points. This was only twenty years after the end of the war. We often talked about the moral imperative to not be Good Germans. Many of my older comrades had mobilized for the civil rights movement; we were all anti-racists. We saw American racism as akin to German racism toward the Jews. [. . .]

What outraged me and my comrades so much about Columbia, along with its hypocrisy, was the air of genteel civility. Or should I say gentile? Despite the presence of so many Jews in the faculty and among the students—geographical distribution in the admissions process had not been effective at filtering us out, our SAT’s and class-rank being so high—the place was dripping with goyishness. When I got there freshmen still wore blue blazers and ties and drank sherry at afternoon socials with the deans. At the top of the Columbia heap sat President Grayson Kirk and Vice-President David Truman, two consummate liberal WASP’s who privately claimed to oppose the war but maintained the institution’s support of it. [. . .]

More than twenty years ago I read a book called, “The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss and the Jewish Struggle With Modernity.” The author, an Irish-American sociologist named John Murray Cuddihy, advances a fascinating theory on the origins of Marxism and Freudianism. Jews were newly emancipated, that is, given legal and political rights, in Western Europe in the mid to late nineteenth century. But even bourgeois Jews were still excluded from civil society by customs and especially by manners. As Jewish (or formerly Jewish) outsiders ostensibly allowed in, but not really, Marx and Freud brought critical eyes to European bourgeois society. Marx said, in effect, “You think you’ve got yourself a fine little democracy here, well let me tell you about the class exploitation and misery that’s underlying it.” Similarly, Freud exposed the seamy, sexuality-driven motives, the up-raised penises controlling the unconscious minds of civilized, well-mannered bourgeois society.

We Jews at Columbia—and I would guess at colleges throughout the country—brought the same outsider view to the campuses we had been allowed into. We were peasant children right out of the shtetls of New Jersey and Queens screaming, “You want to know the truth about Columbia University, they’re a bunch of liberal imperialists! They claim to be value-neutral but when we asked them to stop their research for the Vietnam War and their racist expansion into the Harlem community, they not only ignored us, but they called out the cops to beat us up and arrest us. Up against the wall, motherfucker, this is a stickup!” Morally and emotionally we could not fit into the civilized world of the racist, defense-oriented modern university. Such was our ordeal of civility. [. . .]

I am so obviously Jewish that no matter how much carne adovada or fry bread I eat, I’m instantly recognizable as a Jew. I proudly acknowledge the drive for education in Jewish culture which made me want to read about the world and to understand it and to become a teacher. I also recognize that in my social activism I am one of thousands working in the grand tradition of Jewish leftists, the Trotskys and the Emma Goldmans and the Goodmans and Schwerners of the twentieth century. I honor this lineage. As Jews our advantage in the past, though, was that we were outsiders critically looking in; today Jews sit at the right hand of the goy in the White House advising him whom to bomb next in order to advance the Empire. [. . .]

As a child I never fell for the seduction of patriotism. It seemed so arbitrary, who’s an American and who’s not. If my relatives hadn’t emigrated, who would I be? Since I was also at core an idealist and a utopian—another Jewish tradition?—I wanted to skip all that obviously stupid and dangerous stuff that gave rise to wars and racism. In 1965 I began to identify myself as a socialist and an internationalist. I still am an internationalist since old religions die hard.

As for non-Jewish influences, Tom Hayden, in his book on how he's not white but Irish, claims:
C. Wright Mills was the American intellectual who had the single greatest impact on the New Left. He authored a series of books and tracts that explained the American power elite and the mostly white-collar society from which a majority of activists emerged. He tried to resurrect and idealistic Marxism from the bureaucratic clutches of Stalinist states. [. . .]

Mills was Irish in his origins and style. But as an iconoclastic American he replaced ethnic heritage as an explanatory category with issues of class, status, and power. Mills was a descendant of Irish Famine immigrants from county Leitrim. In a 1963 letter, Mills's mother described the family forebears - the Gallaghers and McGinnisses - not primarily as Irish but as Catholics "driven from Ireland in 1840 by persecution from England on account of their religion."

In fact, it appears Mills was only about 1/4 Irish Catholic; but he was born in Texas and it appears the rest of his ancestry was Southern -- which is similarly inconvenient for Woodard's effort to slot 1960s leftism neatly into his "American Nations" framework.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read something by Hayden reflecting on his life. I can't remember what it was. He goes on and on about how strongly he identifies as Irish-Catholic and it doesn't take much reading between lines to surmise that he essentially resents the USA itself for being a creation of Protestants.

His entire political motivation may be "ethnic grievance and animosity", as Steve Sailer once said of Barack Obama's early politics.

So much for idealistic leftism.