My Life In The New Left
By Kevin MacDonald
March 18, 2009
The first time I became aware of leftist Jews was when, as a reporter
for The Daily Cardinal, the student newspaper, at the University of
Wisconsin, I was assigned to cover a meeting of the Committee Against
the War in Vietnam. This was around 1965, just after the war started
heating up. In my short career as a reporter I had also covered a
meeting of the Young Republicans, and the contrast couldn't have been
more striking. The Young Republicans were all dressed upmen in suits
and ties, women in dressesand looked like they were attending a
business meeting at the country club.
Even though the Young Republicans were all white and most of them
came from Wisconsin, I can't say that I related to them much. But I
felt even more alien at the meeting of the antiwar committee. The
attendees were dressed in a much more Bohemian style and there was a
lot of intense talk about politics. And they were Jewish.
I wasn't the only one to notice the Jewish flavor of radical politics
at Wisconsin. In their academic study of the New Left Roots of
Radicalism: Jews, Christians and the Left, Stanley Rothman and S.
Robert Lichter quote an observer of the New Left scene at the
University of Wisconsin: "I am struck by the lack of Wisconsin-born
people and the massive preponderance of New York Jews. The situation
at the University of Minnesota is similar." His correspondent
replied: "As you perceived, the Madison left is built on New York Jews."
Things changed for me when I moved in with two Jewish roommates and
suddenly became immersed in the radical Jewish subculture of Madison.
Living in an environment where radical politics was an unquestioned
assumption, I soon became a radical myself. A social psychologist
would probably explain it as conforming to a new set of social
normswhen in Rome, do as the Romans do. In some ways I was probably
prepared for the plunge into radicalism. I had been politically
liberal, a Democrat, and a strong supporter of the Civil Rights
Movements. But there was a very large gap between being a liberal and
being a radical, especially in those days.
Shortly thereafter, I remember telling someone from my hometown that
I had become "alienated" from the culture. And now that I recall that
incident, it calls to mind a passage from Chapter 6 of my study of
Jewish involvement in 20th Century intellectual and political
movements, The Culture of Critique:
"[The New York Intellectuals] conceived themselves as alienated,
marginalized figuresa modern version of traditional Jewish
separateness and alienation from [non-Jewish] culture. [As Norman
Podhoretz described them,] "They did not feel that they belonged to
America or that America belonged to them." … Indeed, Podhoretz … was
asked by a New Yorker editor in the 1950s "whether there was a
special typewriter key at Partisan Review with the word 'alienation'
on a single key."
Without really realizing the ramifications, I had been acculturated
into a Jewish intellectual and political milieu of alienationand
antipathy to the small-town Wisconsin milieu (Irish and German,
Catholic, lower middle class) in which I grew up. My attitudes toward
pretty much everything changed dramatically. I viewed the people and
culture that I grew up in with disdain if not hatred.
The University of Wisconsin was a hotbed of the counterculture during
the 1960s. Two buildings were bombed, several were occupied, and the
Wisconsin National Guard was called in to restore order. There was
also a substantial hippie subculturerelatively less political and
less Jewish, and more preoccupied with drugs, sex, and rock-n'-roll.
At the center of intellectual life for radicals at Wisconsin were
Harvey Goldberg and the History Department. One of the themes of The
Culture of Critique is the tendency for Jewish intellectual movements
to become centered around highly charismatic Jewish figures. At
Wisconsin the student movement idolized historically important Jewish
leftists such as Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Herbert Marcuse.
But there was a special place in their hearts for the charismatic
social historian Harvey Goldberg. Goldberg's lectures presenting his
Marxist view of European social history enthralled a very large
following on campus. He commanded overflow crowds at the largest
lecture hall on campus, Agriculture Hall, which holds 600 students.
Going there was a commitment because it was not located near the
social science buildings.
Goldberg's lectures were an unforgettable experience of performance
art. Beginning in a low key but intense style, he built up the volume
and intensity level gradually to a frenzied climax. The lectures
usually ended 510 minutes after the class was scheduled to end, but
everyone remained glued to their seats. The conclusion typically
elicited a rousing standing ovation from the students.
By the end of the lecture, Goldberg, who was rather gaunt and frail
looking, was sweating profusely, seemingly drained and exhausted.
Throughout the lecture, students would react by laughing at his jokes
and applauding his condemnations of the capitalists and other
oppressors in European history. Great fun, and doubtless quite
influential. As a newspaper article put it, "His lectures, delivered
in a voice that seemed to resonate from the depths of his soul, were
a transforming experience for generations of students, stirring their
minds and consciences."
Goldberg died in 1989, but his legacy lives on. Quite a few of his
lectures were recorded and are available from the Harvey Goldberg
Center for Contemporary History at Wisconsin. Besides the Goldberg
Center at the University of Wisconsin, he has also been immortalized
by a Program for Excellence in Teaching at Ohio State (his first
teaching position), and with a classroom at the Brecht Forum, a
Marxist cultural center in New York.
Probably because of Goldberg, the History Department achieved pride
of place in terms of academic majors for radicals. (Sociology was
also fashionable; I was in philosophy, which was also at least
moderately acceptable for a radical.) Being accepted as a graduate
student by Goldberg was very prestigious even though Goldberg was not
particularly productive as a scholar.
Goldberg's rival for intellectual guruship at Wisconsin was George L.
Mosse whose course on European intellectual history was also a magnet
for campus radicals. Mosse was the grandson of the founder of the
liberal Berlin newspaper Der Tageblatta prototype of Jewish-owned
liberal media that drew the special ire of Hitler and his movement.
Der Tageblatt was seized by the government when Hitler came to power,
and Mosse and his family were forced to leave Germany.
The radicals I knew viewed Mosse as insufficiently radical. His main
sin was that he was an intellectual historian. Serious Marxists view
intellectual history as mere superstructure overlaying the economic
basis of the class struggle.
I took Mosse's course and later came to read several of Mosse's books
as background to my chapter on National Socialism [PDF] in Separation
and Its Discontents. In his book The Crisis of German Ideology, Mosse
stressed that an important ingredient in the rise of Nazism was
völkisch ideologythe ideology that Germans had a unique folk spirit
as a result of their evolutionary past. Incidentally, although
unmentioned by Mosse, such racially charged views found mirror images
in the writings of 19th-century Jewish proto-Zionists like Moses Hess
[PDF] and became a cornerstone of the racial Zionist movement that
dominates the politics of Israel today.
Unlike Goldberg, Mosse's Jewish interests and identification were
quite overt. His lectures, like his books, showed a strong interest
in Jewish issues, particularly the Holocaust and the ideologoical
basis of Nazism. Like Goldberg, Mosse has left behind a legacy at the
UW History Department, endowing it with a bequest made possible by
the restoration of his family's property after World War II. Mosse
also taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; his Jewish
interests can also be seen by perusing the catalog of the book series
published by the institute established in his name.
Although Goldberg never discussed Jewish issues in his lectures to my
knowledge, the Jewishness of both of these campus gurus was apparent
to everyone. Attending the lectures and discussing them with others
was an important component of the Jewish-dominated radical subculture
I was not alone as a non-Jew adopting the attitudes of the radical
Jewish subculture. The anti-war movement spread beyond its
predominantly East Coast Jewish origins to a very large swathe of the
university and the city of Madison.
A lot of this was brought to mind while viewing the 1979 documentary
The War at Home which chronicles the period from around 19641970 in
Madison. The only people I recognize in the film are Paul Soglin and
Evan Starktwo highly visible Jewish antiwar activists during that
period. (Soglin parlayed his career as an activist into 6 terms as
mayor of Madison, while Stark became a tenured radical at Rutgers
University.) But, besides leaders like Soglin and Stark, the protests
and demonstrationssome of which I participated inshowed a
preponderance of non-Jews. The protest against the warand to a great
extent the values of the radical counterculture as a wholehad become
Memories about Madison radicals in the 1960s came up again while
reading Mark Rudd's memoir (Why were there so many Jews in SDS (Or
the ordeal of civility). Rudd, who is Jewish, became well known as a
student activist at Columbia University during the 1960s. After being
expelled from Columbia, he became an SDS organizer and (along with
Bill Ayers) was one of the founders of the Weather Underground whose
mission was, as quoted by Rudd, "the violent overthrow of the
government of the US in solidarity with the struggles of the people
of the world."
Rudd describes the SDS at Columbia during the late 1960s as a "Jewish
fraternity." The Jewish radicals described by Rudd seem more like
Harvey Goldberg than George Mosse. Their Jewish identification was
never discussed among themselves: "I don't remember one single
conversation in which we discussed the fact that so many of us were
Jewish." Rudd suggests that "by being radicals we thought we could
escape our Jewishness."
The late Paul Lyons [PDF], an academic historian of the American left
(Philadelphia Communists 1936-56), makes the interesting comment
about the Jewish Old Left that
"…most Jewish Communists wear their Jewishness very casually but
experience it deeply. It is not a religious or even an institutional
Jewishness for most; nevertheless, it is rooted in a subculture of
identity, style, language, and social network. . . . In fact, this
second-generation Jewishness was antiethnic and yet the height of
ethnicity. The emperor believed that he was clothed in transethnic,
American garb, but [non-Jews] saw the nuances and details of his
It was the same with their chidren who became the Jewish New Left.
The topic of why there were so many radical Jews was never discussed,
at least around me. But the Jewishness of these radicals was obvious
to non-Jews like me who were suddently exposed to a very different
subculture. The ethnic networking among Jews was obvious, as were the
East Coast accents with sprinklings of Yiddish. Their taste in
clothing was different, and they liked to talk about movies a lot,
especially European movies by directors like Ingmar Bergman and
François Trauffautsort of a 1960s intellectual version of Seinfeld.
They had a whole set of (Jewish) idols (Trotsky, Marcuse, Luxemburg)
that were initially quite foreign to me. Rudd recalls that the frame
of reference for Jewish radicals at Columbia was the Holocaust and
the need not to be a "good German". I don't recall mention of the
Holocaust, but it is certainly true that World War II and the evils
of Nazism were much on the mind of Jewish radicals at Wisconsin.
Several authors have pointed out that radical Jews saw themselves as
participating in a universalist movement to establish a classless
society for all people; and because of this universalist veneer, they
thought that their Jewishness would be invisible to others, or at
least irrelevant. Obviously, it wasn't invisible, nor was it irrelevant.
The radical Jews I knew seemed to realize that non-Jews saw them as
Jews. In fact, one thing that struck me was that they were proud of
being Jews and had very negative attitudes toward Christianity. At
least around me, they did not condemn Christianity because of
anti-Semitism. (The only allusion to historical anti-Semitism that I
remember was when my roommate said something to the effect that "Do
you realize that at one time or another Jews have been expelled from
every country of Europe?" At that time, I did not know that.)
Rather, they were proud of the fact that Judaism represented
enlightened views on sexuality, while Chistianity was prudish and
sexually repressive. Their theoretical framework for this (there
always has to be a theoretical framework!) was, of course,
psychoanalysis which by then had become another bedrock ideology
among Jewish intellectuals. In line with Freudian thinking, they
attributed various forms of psychopathology and even white racial
consciousness and capitalism to Christian sexual attitudesan
analysis that stemmed from their reading of Marcuse's synthesis of
Marx and Freud.
Other things about radical Jews at Wisconsin only struck me after
becoming more familiar with Judaism 25 years later. The intellectual
atmosphere of the movement closely resembled the atmosphere of other
Jewish subculturesintensely verbal discussions in which one's
reputation as a leftist was related to one's ability in Marxist
intellectual analysis and familiarity with Marxist scholarship. All
of this required a great deal of study, but it was worth it because
being a Marxist scholar, like being a rabbi in traditional Jewish
society, carried a great deal of prestige. It was also attractive to
There was also a great deal of hostility to Western cultural
institutions as politically and sexually oppressive combined with an
ever-present sense of danger and imminent destruction by the forces
of repression. The overwhelming forces of the fascist capitialist
state led by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI were about to round up all the
radicals and do away with them. This ingroup bunker mentalitywhich I
document A People That Shall Dwell AloneI came to realize as a
fundamental characteristic of Jewish society.
Incidentally, this is a very useful thing to know about Jews. It
explains how the ADL and the SPLCthe $PLC as VDARE.com calls
itmakes their money: Create the feeling of imminent destruction by
the forces of white racism and bigotry as a way of prodding Jews to donate.
Not surprisingly, there was an attitude of moral and intellectual
superiority as well as contempt toward traditional American culture,
particularly rural America and most particularly the South. These
attitudes are hallmarks of the other intellectual movements reviewed
in The Culture of Critique. In Rudd's case, his ire is directed at
the genteel culture of Columbia:
"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 … the place was dripping with goyishness."
Ah, the stuffy white goyim at Columbia hadn't abdicated quickly
enough and still had the temerity to hang around past their time. We
can all breathe a sigh of relief that those days are over. I suppose
he would have had the same reaction to the Young Republicans at
Wisconsin in 1965.
In my experience at Madison during the 1960s, there was also a strong
desire for bloody, apocalyptic revenge against the entire social
structureperceived by them to be the goyish, fascist, capitalist,
racist, anti-Semitic social structure. (Harvey Goldberg, whose
lectures often celebrated bloody uprisings against the forces of
oppression, probably fed into this.) This fits well with the set of
interviews with New Left Jewish radicals in Percy Cohen's Jewish
Radicals and Radical Jews: many had destructive fantasies in which
the revolution would result in "humiliation, dispossession,
imprisonment or execution of the oppressors." These fantasies of
destruction of the social order were combined with a belief in their
own omnipotence and their ability to create a non-oppressive social order.
Finally, it was very striking to me that these antiVietnam War
Jewish radicals were euphoric incongruously about Israel's victory
Six-Day War of 1967. This also struck VDARE.com's Paul Gottfried as
worthy of comment:
"All my Jewish colleagues in graduate school [at Yale], noisy
anti-anti-Communists, opposed American capitalist imperialism, but
then became enthusiastic warmongers during the Arab-Israeli War in
1967. One Jewish Marxist acquaintance went into a rage that the
Israelis did not demand the entire Mideast at the end of that war.
Another, though a feminist, lamented that the Israeli soldiers did
not rape more Arab women. It would be no exaggeration to say that my
graduate school days resounded with Jewish hysterics at an
institution where Wasps seemed to count only for decoration." (Paul
Gottfried, On "Being Jewish", Rothbard-Rockwell Report [April]:910, 1996.
I guess the old white genteel elite at Columbia weren't the only ones
capable of hypocrisy.
To his credit, Rudd does better than most Jews in trying to explain
Jewish involvement in radicalism, citing John Murray Cuddihy's
classic The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss and the
Jewish Struggle With Modernity. Here is the central quote from Cuddihy:
"With the advent of Jewish Emancipation, when ghetto walls crumble
and the shtetlach begin to dissolve, Jewrylike some wide-eyed
anthropologistenters upon a strange world, to explore a strange
people observing a strange halakah They examine this world in dismay,
with wonder, anger, and punitive objectivity. This wonder, this
anger, and the vindictive objectivity of the marginal nonmember are
recidivist; they continue unabated into our own time because Jewish
Emancipation continues into our own time."
"We Jews at Columbiaand I would guess at colleges throughout the
countrybrought 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!'"
Rudd also cites Israel Shahak's important book Jewish History, Jewish
Religion but Rudd twists Shahak's thesis to state that
"…as a reaction to being the victims of racism throughout the
centuries, we developed a religion which itself enshrined racism
toward the other. This is especially true of the rabbinical
commentaries developed in Eastern Europe over the almost one thousand
years in which we occupied a middle position between the landlords,
whom we served, and the peasants who despised us and whom we in turn
despised. How could it have been otherwise? In my family, if you
wanted to say somebody was stupid you said they had a 'goyishe kup,'
a goyish head."
My view is that it's the other way around: The Jewish concern with
racial purity can be seen in the Old Testament and throughout Jewish history.
From time to time, Western societies have attacked or erected
defenses against Jewish elites and their non-Jewish allies. Since the
19th century, important anti-Jewish movements have been racialist
(National Socialism in Germany), but this racialism was not the basis
of Christian anti-Jewish movements (Christianity in the 4th and 5th
centuries and during the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal). As
Shahak points out (p. 64), the general pattern throughout European
history was for popular uprisings against Jews as components of
oppressive elitesand for the non-Jewish elements of the elites to
come to the aid of Jews.
Rudd sees Israel for what it is: A racialist, militarist, expansionist state:
"Israel is America's future: militarized, racist,
religio-nationalist, corporate, riven with so many internal splits
and hatreds that only the existence of a perpetual enemy keeps the
nation from exploding. If we don't organize to stop the current
direction in this country, thirty years from now we will be Israel."
Rudd is probably right that America of the future will be hopelessly
"riven with … internal splits and hatreds". Such are the predictable
results of the rise of multiculturalism and massive non-white
immigration unleashed by the activism of the organized Jewish community [PDF].
What Rudd doesn't discuss is that Jewish activism on behalf of
non-white immigration can be directly traced back to Jewish activists
on the leftpeople like Rudd. Massive non-white immigration into
Western societies has been a project of the Jewish left for pretty
much the entire last century. The Jewish left has been the most
influential component of the organized Jewish community. And even
when a significant number of Jews defected from the left, giving rise
to the neoconservative movement, they retained the traditional Jewish
attitudes on immigration.
That's why I think the real explanation of Jewish involvement in the
Left includes an additional component. It's certainly true that, as
Cuddihy wrote, Jews emerged from the ghetto with hostility toward the
culture around them. This fits with modern psychological data on how
people with a strong ingroup identity, like Jews, perceive outgroups.
Jewish hostility toward the culture of non-Jews has been a constant
throughout Jewish history. The difference was that, as Cuddihy notes,
they and their preferences suddenly became part of mainstream Western
culture, with a great deal of political influence and access to the
media and the academic world.
But it was more than that. It's about displacement and domination.
The displacement of the genteel white Protestant culture at Columbia
that Rudd hated is part of the general displacement of non-Jewish
whites. Rudd doesn't consider the fate of that other very influential
group of leftist Jewsthe Jewish radicals who fled the shtetls of
Eastern Europe and, instead of going to Ellis Island, became dominant
elite in the USSR after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution.
These Jewish radicals were able to actually carry out in the USSR the
fantasies the New Left Jewish radicals in the USi.e., the
"humiliation, dispossession, imprisonment or execution of the
oppressors" mentioned above. Harvey Goldberg's wet dream.
This group of Jewish radicals became an integral part of the
machinery of mass murder and oppression in the USSR. In doing so,
they displaced the older non-Jewish elites of Russians and Germans.
(Doubtless, they were too genteel and had other faults that warranted
their displacement.) At least through the 1950s, political radicalism
was popular among American Jews in large part because the Bolshevik
Revolution was good for Jews. Jews had risen to the heights in the
USSR, and the USSR had crushed fascist Germany.
Even though the New Left rejected Stalinism, there is no doubt it was
bent on a similar displacement of white elites. All of its policies
led inexorably in that direction. To a considerable extent, the
current malaise of whites in the US can be directly traced to the
triumph of the attitudes of the New Leftespecially non-white
immigration, the rise of multiculturalism, and the steady erosion of
whites as a percentage of the electorate. (The last Democratic
president to get a majority of white votes was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
I have a suggestion for Rudd: If you are really interested in
stopping racism, become active in opposing Zionism and its influence
in the US.
Otherwise, we get the impression that you tacitly approve Jewish
ethnic chauvinism in Israel while favoring the displacment of whites in the US.
And if you want to quell the" "internal splits and hatreds" within
the US, become active in the cause of reversing the effects of four
decades of non-white immigration.
Kevin MacDonald [email@example.com] is professor of psychology at
California State UniversityLong Beach and a frequent contributor to
The Occidental Observer. For his website, click here.