The New Left
We New Left Marxists grew up under a mushroom cloud with a silver lining: the nuclear war-threat which, as a byproduct, had erased the all-too-comforting historicism of the various Old Lefts. Compared to that loss, even the failures of Socialism in the East and the West which obsessed our predecessors seemed rather less alarming. They had been so entrapped in the pre- Hiroshima frameworks, the expansion of Socialism or the battle against reverse-Marxist expansion of Stalin's barbarism, that Armageddon became a mere extension of the old logics. Not for us. How could we become enthusiastic about either of the superpowers, armed to the teeth for our annihilation? How could we believe in the inevitability of any historical tendency to outrace the doomsday clock? We instinctively thought of ourselves as confronted by two different incarnations of a single menacing system, one world empire under different names.
Then again, the Old Left intellectuals' loss of realistic hope had been at least accompanied, perhaps (they often thought) even caused by the spread of mass culture. They were the last generation to revere, above all things, European high culture and the printed word. We were the first generation of American radicals born into the television era and the all-embracing mass culture. We thought in terms dictated by our surroundings-- even in our arcadian idylls, if that is not too much of a contradiction in terms. The media invasion of the mind, worse to Old Left intellectuals than the nuclear arms race, had become part of our assumed reality and one of the rare sources for subversive signals.
Coming of age at the juncture of unprecedented perils and of a