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The 1960s:�Fascism Takes to the Streets�

But this all happened at Comell in the spring of 1969. Paramilitary�Tllack


Nationalists under the banner of the Afro-American Society�sfiized cnntrol ofthe
university after waging an increasinelv aggressive campaign�of intimidadon and
violenci�nglfascist youth cult. Indeed the "movement" of the 1960s may�be
considered the third great fascist moment ofthe twentieth century.�They were an
avant-garde movement that�r sought to redefine not only politics but human nature
itself.�emk The exaltation of passion over reason, action over�deliberation, is a
naturally youthful impulse. Treating young people�as equals, "privileging" their
opinions precisely because they lad�experience and knowledge, is an inherently
fascist tendency, because�at its heart lies the urge to throw off "old ways" and
"old dogmas" in�favor of what the Nazis called the "idealism of the deed." Youth
politics#like populism�generally#is the politics ofthe tantmm and�the�hissy fit.
The indulgence of so-called youth polidcs is one face of the�sort of cowardice and
insecurity that leads to the triumph of barbarism.�Hitler rejoiced that he stole
the hearts and minds�of youth, transfonning universities into incubators of
activism for�the Fatherland.�Thp Fnmell takeover echoed these and other fascist
themes. Black�student radicals, convinced of their racial superiority and the
inherent cormption�ofliberalism, mounted a sustained campaign�ofintimidation and
violence against the very institution that afforded them�the luxury of an
education. rresiaem Perkins himself was a quintessp-ntiallv progressive�educator.
With degrees from Swarthmore�an/1 Princeton, he cut his teeth as a New Dealer in
the Office of�j^se reasons#plus a decided lack of courage#�Perkins prostrated
himselfto fascist goons while he mthlessly tumed�his back on those whose
educationsjobs, and even lives were threatSince then, what�we now call identity
politics has become the�norm in academia. Whole departments are given over to the
exploration and celebration�of race and gender differences.�Diversity is�now code
for the immutable nature of racial identity. This idea, too,�traces itself back to
the neo-Romanticism of the Nazis. What was�s. Still, in its strictly political
dimension,�there is no denying that the movemenfs activist core was little
more�than a fascist youth cult. Indeed the "movement" of the 1960s may�"^ey were
an avant-garde movement that�
sought to redefine not only politics but human nature itself.�Historically,
fascism is of necessity and by design a form of youth�movement, and all youth
movements have more than a whiff of fascism about them.�Fhe exaltation of passion
over reason, action over�'lBIiberation, is a naturally youthful impulse. Treating
young people�as equals, "privileging" their opinions precisely because they
lack�e?Gp@nence and knowledge, is an inherently fascist tendency, because�at U|
heart lies the urge to throw off "old ways" and "old dogmas" in�"SSor of what the
Nazis called the "idealism ofthe deed." Youth politics#like populism�generally#is
the politics ofthe tantmm and the�i^ fit. The indulgence of so-called youth
politics is one face of the�M^^ cowardice and insecurity that leads to the triumph
of barLet us leam of Germans�and war and�what we can do for the nation!
Intuition#which young people have�in abundance#was more important than knowledge
and experience,�insisted the radicals. 1�What was required, according to�Hitler,
was a "revolt against reason" itself, for "[ijntellect has poisoned our
nennle!"6�Hitler rejoiced that he stole the hearts�and minds�of youth,
transforming universities into incubators of activism for�the Fatherland.�The
radicals of the New Left�They were an avant-garde movement that�

sought to redefine not only politics but human nature itself.�Historically,


fascism is ofnecessity and by design a form of youth�Historically, fascism is
ofnecessity and by design a form ofyouth�movement, and all youth movements have
more than a whiff of fascism about them. The�exaltation of passion over reason,
acdon over�deliberation, is a naturally youthful impulse. Treating young
people�Treating young people�as equals, "privileging" their opinions precisely
because they lack�experience and knowledge, is an inherently fascist tendency,
because�at its heart lies the urge to throw off "old ways" and "old dogmas"
in�favor of what the Nazis called the "idealism of the deed." Youth politics#like
populism�generally#is the politics ofthe tantmm and�the�hissy fit. The indulgence
of so-called youth politics is one face of the�sort of cowardice and insecurity
that leads to the triumph of barbarism.�While there's no disputing that Nazism's
success was deeply connected to the privations�of the great German Depression,
that should�not lead one to think that Nazism itself was a product of
poverty.�n^yone who lived through the 1960s. "They regarded family life as�They,
too, believed you couldn't tmst anyone over�thirty anrl despised the old
materialistic order in all its manifestations. To them,�"parental religion was
largely a sham, politics�boast1" Bom of�middle-class liberalism. "Their goal,"
writes John Toland. "was to�establish a youth culture for fighting the bourgeois
trinity of school,�home and church"4�The tradition of study for its own sake was
thrown aside in the�name of "relevance." L�What was required, according to�Hitler,
was a "revolt against reason" itself, for "[i]ntellect has poi"6 Hitler
rejoiced�that he stole the hearts and minds�of youth, transforming universities
into incubators of activism fnr�the Fatheriand.�A key selling point for German
youth was the Nazi emphasis on�the need for increased student participation in
universitv p"vp,mance.�Nazis believed that the voice of the students needed to be
henrd anrl�the importance of "activism" recognized as an essential part of�higher
educadon. Fore�. Ttle tradition of study for its own sake was thrown aside in
the�name of "relevance."�What was required, according to�Hitler, was a "revolt
against reason" itself, for "[i]ntellect has poisoned our people!"6�Hitler
rejoiced that he stole�the hearts and minds�of youth, transforming universities
into incubators of activism for�studies of Nazi participation found that students
generally outpaced�any other group in their support for National Socialism.7�Nazis
believed that the voice of the students needed to be heard and�the importance of
"activism" recognized as an essential part of�higher educadon. Foreshadowing a
refrain common to American�student radicals of the 1960s, like Columbia's Mark
Rudd, who declared that the only�legitimate job of the university was "the
creation�and expansion of a revolutionary movement," the Nazis believed
that�Ultimately freedom is nothing else but responsible service�on behalf of the
basic values of our being as a Volk"9�WTiat cannot be overstated is that Gennan
students were first and�foremost rebelling against the conservatism of both German
higher�education and the older generation's "bourgeois materialism." The�HE SELF-
STYLED revolutionaries had grown increasingly�. brazen in their campaign to force
concessions from the university. Students and�professors who were labeled race
traitors received death threats. Enemies of the�racial nation were savagely�beaten
by roaming thugs. Guns were brought onto the campus, and�the students dressed up
in military uniforms. Professors were held�hostage, badgered, intimidated, and
threatened whenever their teaching contradicted�racial orthodoxy. But the
university administration,�out of a mixture of cowardice and sympathy for the
rebels, refused�to punish the revolutionaries, even when the president was
manhandled by a fascist�goon in front of an audience made up of�the campus
community.�The radicals and their student sympathizers believed themselves�to be
revolutionaries of the left#the opposite of fascists in their�minds#yet when one
of their professors read them the speeches of�Benito Mussolini, the students
reacted with enthusiasm. Events�Events�local radio station. Armed with rifles and
shotguns, they demanded�an ethnically pure educational institution staffed and run
by members of their own�race. At first the faculty and administration
were�understandably reluctant; but when it was suggested that those who�opposed
their agenda might be killed, most of the "moderates"�quickly reversed course and
suDnorted the militants. In a mass rally�reminiscent of Nuremberg, the professors
recanted their reactionary�ways and swore fidelity to the new revolutionary order.
One professor later recalled�how easily "pompous teachers who catechized�about
academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into�dancing bears."1�The
University of Berlin in 1932? Milan in 1922? Good guesses.�But this all happened
at Comell in the spring of 1969. ParamiJitarv�Black Nationalists under the banner
of the Afro-American Society�seized control of the university after waging an
increasingly aggressive campaign�of intimidation and violence.�The Comell takeover
echoed these and other fascist themes. Black�student radicals, convinced of their
racial superiority and the inherent cormption�of liberalism, mounted a sustained
campaign�of intimidation and violence against the very institution that afforded
them�the luxury of an education. President Perkins himself was a quintessentially
progressive�educator. With degrees from Swarthmore�He ridiculed the
"intellectual�chastity" of traditionai scnoiarsmp and mocked non-
pragmatic�scholars#modem-day ink knights#who spent their time devoted to�Like so
many of the�New Deal intellectuals, Perkins was hostile to the idea that the
past�had much to say about the present. For him, the watchword was "relevance,"
which�in the 1960s quickly led to "empowerment."10�For these reasons#plus a
decided lack of courage#�Perkins prostrated himselfto fascist goons while he
ruthlessly tumed�his back on those whose educations, jobs, and even lives were
threatened by Black�Power radicals. German students insisted that they be�taught
"German science" and "German logic." The black radicals�wanted to be taught "black
science" and "black logic" by black professors. They demanded�a separate school
tasked to "create the�tools�necessary for the fonnation of a black nation." They
backed up these�demands not with arguments but with violence and passionate
assertion. "In the past�it has been all the black people who have done�all�the
dying," shouted the leader of the black radicals. "Now the time�has come when the
pigs are going to die." Perkins supinely obliged�after only token opposition.
After all, he explained, "there is nothing�I have ever said or will ever say that
is forever fixed or will not be�modified by changed circumstances." The first
course offered in the�new program was Black Ideology."�Since then, what we now
call idendty politics has become the�norm in academia. Whole departments are given
over to the exploration and celebration�of race and gender differences.�Diversity
is�now code for the immutable nature of racial identity. This idea, too,�traces
itself back to the neo-Romanticism of the Nazis. What was�once the hallmark of
Nazi thinking, forced on higher education at�gunpoint, is now the height of
intellectual sophistication. Andrew�Readers of a certain age probably know next to
nothing about the�Comell uprising, and an even larger number probably have a
hard�time reconciling this spectacle with the image of the 1960s conjured�by the
popular culture. They believe in the Sorelian myth of the�1960s as an age when the
"good guys" overtumed a cormpt system,�rebelled against their "square" parents,
and ushered in an age of enlightenment and�decency, now under threat from
oppressive conservatives who want to roll back its�utopian gains. Liberal
baby�^m^oest predictor of�whether a college student would become a campus radical
was the�ideology of his or her own parents. Left-leaning parents produced�left-
leaning children who grew up to be radical revolutionaries. The�It's bizarre how
many people remember the 1960s as a time�of "unity" and "hope" when it was in
reality a time of rampant domestic terrorism,�campus tumult, assassinations, and
riots. Nostalgia�for their own youth can't explain this myopia, sincp iihprals
also pme�for the 1930s as a time when "we were all in it together." This, too,�is
a gross distortion. The United States was not unified in the 1930s;�it was tom by
political unrest, intense labor violence, and the fear�that one totalitarianism or
another lay just around the comer. If unity�alone was the issue, the left would
pine for the 1950s or even the�1920s. But the left didn't thrive in these decades,
so any unity enjoyed by Americans�was illegitimate.�In other words, it is not
unity the left longs for but victory; unity�Bnns not their own (such as the "staid
confomiity" of the 1950s)�is false and misleading. In the 1930s and 1960s, the
left's popularfront approach�yielded real power#and that is the tme object of
liberal nnst'aiaia: nothing more,�nothing less.�THE NEW LEFT'S FASCIST MOMENT�The
elevation of unity as the highest social value is a core tenet o�fascism and all
leftist ideologies. Mussolini adopted the socialist�symbol of the fasces to convey
that his movement valued unity over�the liberal democratic fetish of debate and
discussion. That clanking,�unrhymed chant we hear at protest rallies today#"The
people united�will never be defeated!"#is a perfectly fascist refrain. Perhaps it
is�true that "the people united will never be defeated" but that doesn't�mean the
people are right (as Calvin Coolidge liked to say, "One�with
the law on his side is a majority"). We tend to forget that unity�is, at best,
morally neutral and often a source of irrationality and�groupthink. Rampaging mobs
are unified. The Mafia is unified.�Marauding barbarians bent on rape and pillage
are unified. Meanwhile, civilized people�have disagreements, and small-J
democrats�have arguments. Classical liberalism is based on this fundamental
insight, which�is why fascism was always antiliberal. Liberalism reiected the idea
that unity is�more valuable than individuality. For�fascists and other leftists,
meaning and authenticity are found in�collective enterprises#of class, nation, or
race#and the state is�there to enforce that meaning on everyone without the
hindrance of�debate.�The first task of any fascist reformation is to discredit the
authority of the past,�and this was the top priority of the New Left. The Old�Left
was "suffocating under a blanket of slogans, euphemisms and�empty jargon," while
the New Left's mission lay in "getting people�to think" Received wisdom, dogma,
and "ritualistic language," Tom�Hayden wrote in his 1961 "Letter to the New
(Young) Left," would�be swept aside by a revolutionary spirit that "finds no rest
in conclusions [and�in which] answers are seen as provisional,�to be discarded�in
the face of new evidence or changed conditions" Hayden, like�Mussolini, Woodrow
Wilson, and the New Dealers, placed his hopes�in a pragmatism that would yield a
Third Way between the "authoritarian movements�both of Communism and the domestic
Right."�Hayden, of course, also promised that his new movement would�transcend
labels and take "action."�In academia a parallel revolt was under way. In 1966, at
a conference at Johns Hopkins�University, the French literary critic
Jacques�Derrida introduced the word "deconstruction"#a term coined by�Nazi
ideologues#into the American intellectual bloodstream.�Deconstmction#a literary
theory which holds that there is no single�meaning to any text#caught fire in the
minds of academics and students alike who�hoped to be liberated from the dead
weight of history and accumulated knowledge.�If all texts were
diversely�interpretable with no "tme" meaning at their core, then the
important�thing#the only thing really#was the meaning the reader imposed�upon the
text. In other words, meaning is created through power and�will. The right
interpretation is the one held by the interpreter who�"wins" the academic power
stmggle. According to Derrida and his�acolytes, reason was a tool of oppression.
Beneath every seemingly�rational decision was pure Nietzschean will to power.
Derrida hoped�to snatch the veil from the Enlightenment and reveal the tyranny
of�"logocentrism" beneath (another word with fascist roots).�This, too, was a
replay of the pragmatic spirit that had sought to�liberate society from the cage
of inherited dogma. Pragmatism inspired Woodrow Wilson,�Franklin Roosevelt, and
Benito Mussolini,�as well as their court intellectuals, to discard the "putrefying
corpse"�
of classical liberalism and parliamentary democracy in order to empower "men of
action"�to solve society's problems through bold experimentation and the
unfettered power�of the state. As one�18 At Comell, in the years preceding the
takeover, de�Man championed the defenestration of the "core cumculum," arguing
that nothing worthwhile�would be lost if the university tumed�its�back on the
traditional benchmarks of a liberal education. How could�it be otherwise if all
those ancient texts were in effect meaningless?�Such ideas contributed to the
implosion of the American university in much the same�way that they accelerated
the Nazi takeover�of�German universities. Polite liberals were forced to choose
between�The parallel between the reformation of American universities in�the 1960s
and what occurred in Nazi Uermany mns even aeeper.�Deconstmction is a direct and
unapologetic offshoot of Heidegger's�brand of existentialism, which not only was
receptive to Nazism but�helped foster it. Heidegger was the great inheritor of
Nietzsche's assanlt on tmth�and morality, which held that we make our own
truth�and decide our own morality. For Heidegger and Nietzsche alike,�good and
evil were childish notions. What matters is will and choice.�Self-assertion was
the highest value. Choices were worthwhile only�if they were authentic choices,
heedless of conventional morality.�Frantz Fanon, who preached about
the�"redemptive" power of violence, was widely seen as a direct heir of�Georges
Sorel, the pi�For more than sixty years, liberals have insisted that the
bacillus�of fascism lies semi-dormant in the bloodstream of the political�right.
And yet with the notable and complicated exceptions of Leo�Strauss and Allan
Bloom, no top-tier American conservative mtellectual was a devotee�of Nietzsche or
a serious admirer�of Heidegger.�All major conservative schools of thought trace
themselves back to�the champions of the Enlightenment#John Locke, Adam
Smith,�Montesquieu, Burke#and none of them have any direct intellectual�link to
Nazism or Nietzsche. to existentialism, nihilism, or even, for�the most part,
Pragmatism.22 Meanwhile, the ranks of left-wing inteltnovement that�believes
action is more�important than ideas. Deconstmction, existentialism, postmodemism,
Pragmatism, relativism:�all of these ideas had the same�purpose#to erode the iron
chains of tradition, dissolve the concrete�foundations of tmth, and firebomb the
bunkers where the defenders�of the ancien regime still fought and persevered.
These were ideolostructive. Movement,�unlike progress, doesn't imply a fixed
destinadon. Rather, it takes it as a given�that any change is better. As Allan�As
Allan�Bloom and others have noted, the core passion of fascism was selfassertion.
The Nazis�may have been striving for a utopian ThousandHitler's instincts were
even more destmctive.�Even before he ordered�^P obliteration of Paris and issued
his scorched-earth policy on�C^erman soil, his agenda was to rip apart everything
the bourgeoisie�had created, to destroy the reacdonaries, to create new art and
architecture, new�culture, new religion, and, most of all, new�Germans.�This
project could only commence upon the ashes of das System.�And if he couldn't
create, he could take solace in destroying.�How exactly is this different from the
"Bum, baby, bum!" ethos�ofthelate 1960s?�THE ACTION CULT�Five months after the
Comell takeover, the Weathermen gathered in�Chicago's Lincoln Park. Armed with
baseball bats, helmets, and, in�ey prepared to "smash�through their bourgeois
inhibitions and 'tear pig city apart' in a 'national action'�they called 'The Days
of Rage.' " Like Brownshirts�and fascist squadristi, they smashed windows,
destroyed property,�and terrorized the bourgeoisie. They'd alreaay Dloodied
themselves�the previous year at the 1968 Democratic National Convention,�where,
the Weathermen claimed, their violence had done "more�damage to the ruling class
... than any mass, peaceful gathering this�country has ever seen."24�The desire to
destroy is a natural outgrowth of the cult of action.�After all, if you are
totally committed to revolutionary change, any�boundaries you mn into#the courts,
the police, the rule of law#�must be either converted, co-opted, or destroyed. All
fascists are�members ofthe cult of action. Fascism's appeal was that it would
get�things done. Make the trains mn on time, put people to work, get�The fascist
state of mind can best be described as "Enough talk, more action!" Close�the
books, get out of�the library, get moving. Take action! What kind of action?
Direct action! Social�action! Mass action! Revolutionary action! Action,�action,
action.�Communists loved action, too. That's�3ut fascists valued action more.
Communism had a playbooK. raiscism had a hurryup�offense, calling its plays on the
field. Sure, rascism had�its�theorists, but in the streets, fascists cared about
victory more than�doctrine. "In a way utterly unlike the classical 'isms,' "
writes Robert�O. Paxton, "the rightness of fascism does not depend on the truth
of�any of the propositions advanced in its name. Fascism is 'tme' insofar as it
helps�fulfill the destiny of a chosen race or�people or blood." '�iscists "do not
feel tied to any particular doctrinal form."25 "�The Nazis were likewise inspired
by Nietzsche but also by�the Romantics, who believed that the spirit of the act is
more important than the�idea behind it. This was the Nazi "Cult of the Deed."�.
Mussolini�rfefiried both socialism and fascism as "movement, stmggle, and ac^n "
One ofhis�favorite slogans was "To live is not to calculate, but�[itlefmocked
those who believed that arguments and reason should tmmp the naked power�of the
people. When four�renowned economists sent Hitler a letter disputing his
socialist�c<-hemes, Hitler responded, "Where are your storm troopers? Go on�
the street, go into folk meetings and try to see your standpoint�through. Then
we'll see who is right#we or you."26�Sixties radicalism was suffused with an
identical spirit. The early�intellectuals ofthe SDS#centered on the Institute for
Policy Studies�fa think tank today closely affiliated with the left wing of
the�Democratic Party)#were adherents of what they called "existential�nrasmatism,"
a blend in equal parts of Jean-Paul Sartre and John�Dewey. "I'm a nihilist! I'm
proud of it, proud of it!" shrieked a dele^ate to a 1967�meeting of the Princeton
SDS. "Tactics? It's too�
As the reader may recall from our earlier discussion, it was�Georges Sorel, the
French engineer tumed intellectual, who pioneered the idea that�the masses needed
myths to be moved to action.�Recognizing that Marxism, like all social science,
rarely panned out�in real life, Sorel married William James's will to believe
to�Nietzsche's will to power and applied them to mass psychology.�Passion, not
facts, was the fuel for action. "It is faith that moves�mountains, not reason,"
Mussolini explained in a 1932 interview�(echoing Woodrow Wilson's Leaders ofMen).
"Reason is a tool, but�it can never be the motive force of the crowd."�As the
cross-buming incident at Comell demonstrated, this preference for
arousing�passions at the expense of truth and reason defined the agenda of those
fighting�in the trenches. The practice�of�"lying for justice"#always acceptable on
the communist left#was�infused into the American New Left with new potency. The
catchphrase at the Columbia�uprising was "the issue is not the issue."�No�For most
of the activists, deceit�wasn't the point. The point was passion, mobilization,
action. As one�SDS member proclaimed after he and his colleagues seized a building
and kidnapped�a dean, "We've got something going on here�and�now we've just got to
find out what it is.""-'"�BUILDING A POLITICS OF MEANING�, The Port�)n Stattement,
the signature document of the New Left, was for�