Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Radicalism Reborn ; Young Radicals Will Have to Learn to Live with an Inner Conflict Caused by Violent Tactics, Cautions an Older Generation of Radicals

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Radicalism Reborn ; Young Radicals Will Have to Learn to Live with an Inner Conflict Caused by Violent Tactics, Cautions an Older Generation of Radicals

Article excerpt

Michael Parenti sat in a jail cell, bruised and bloody, after a 1970 protest at the University of Illinois. This was only one of several brutal arrests he faced as a 30-something protester during the Vietnam War. He reached for the stub of a pencil and began writing a letter to his 3-year-old son on a roll of toilet paper - the only paper he could find.

"Dear Christian," he began. He wanted to tell his son a little bit about himself, about his politics, his values, and what he was trying to achieve - in case he didn't make it out of one of the most divisive eras in US history.

Mr. Parenti says he and many of his friends, many deeply involved in violent radicalism, were so enraged by the inequities of the 1960s and '70s, that they were willing to do almost anything to be heard. They pushed cars through bank windows, clashed with police, and some even threw firebombs.

Now, in his late sixties, Parenti has spent the past 30 years writing books and lecturing at various universities nationwide, expressing very different views on how to effect change.

"I think it's a good thing that there are less of the small revolutionary cadres today," he says. "It's for the better. There is no swift-quick direct blow you can give to the beast."

After years of retrospection, many of the radicals from the 1960s, often the children of middle- and upper-class liberals, ascribe their participation in the revolutionary movement to youthful naivete. Many are living within the system - uncomfortably or not - that they once so vehemently denounced.

But a radical movement is refueling, and Parenti and some of his fellow radicals see parallels between what is happening today and what they did in their own youth. From the recent death of a young Italian protester in Genoa, Italy, outside of the G8 summit this summer to the riots in Canada over the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement, the antiglobalization movement has grown with speed and fury since the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle in 1999.

"They are doing exactly what we were doing in the 1960s, just throw in the environment," says David Horowitz. Born into a liberal, radical family, he was swept up in the anarchist movement as the editor of the New Left publication Ramparts. Today, he has shifted his opinions as far right as they were far left.

Passing the radical torch

The newest radicals, who have turned out to protest high-level meetings on trade agreements and other global alliances, are similar to their predecessors in that they tend to be liberally minded, often children of middle-to-upper-class professionals.

"They have the same ability as the Vietnam protesters, with large numbers of people walking down a large number of streets. These are voices that need to be heard," says Marci Rubin, now a San Francisco corporate lawyer.

And in many ways, they are gaining attention through some of the same violent means as their predecessors. For Ms. Rubin, this is disconcerting: "I have the same problem I did about the Weather people way back," she says. "I have a problem with rioting and senseless destruction. It feels like a call to arms, in a way."

Recent media attention about the regret of old radicals and the rise of new antiglobalists shows that radicalism, so commonly considered the domain of Vietnam or Berkeley, is not necessarily a war of time periods, but of age groups - primarily, young idealists. And many are wondering: Will these newer radicals one day also change course, like those who came before them?

"Their radical pasts will always be tied to them," says Dr. Nancy Snow, a political analyst at the University of California, Los Angeles. "No matter what they do, it will always follow them, as regret or conflict. It will be a part of their obituaries."

The element of conflict in radicalism is something Rubin lives with every day. …

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