Millennial Socialism Preference Incites Sixties Flashbacks

Abbie Hoffman wrote this in 1971. Obviously, many booksellers refused to stock it.

Yippie! Millennials will need to learn from our mistakes. No drugs. No violence.

That was a minute and a half video on the ascendancy of AOC, published by the Washington Post via YouTube.

It says so right here in black and white. A recent Gallup Poll revealed that a whopping 51% of young people (ages 18-29) feel positive about socialism.

Conversely, less than half of those millennials, 45%, have positive feelings about capitalism. That’s a steep decline since the poll was taken in 2010, when 68% of young people found capitalism appealing.

There are the usual suspects of reasons for this. We live in a Gilded Age where wages don’t keep up with economic growth. More and more adult kids still live with their parents, for God’s sake.

Significantly, companies are not living up to their share of the safety net, skimping on health benefits and family leave. And forget about a pension.

And then there’s the stunted growth that comes with student debt.

Various ways millennials are speaking out. source: Business Insider.

As someone who came of age in the sixties, these polling results of millennials make my heart sing. Back in those days, the “S” word was generously used, even if its definition was a bit hazy. It went a long way to make one “politically correct.” (We used that expression proudly back then.)

The political narrative of the sixties was youth-driven (especially on college campuses), tumultuous, colorful and in many ways, changed our culture for good. What it didn’t do was change the hearts and minds of enough people to achieve a working majority committed to social change. That’s hard work.

Big dreams died hard (mine included) when President Nixon in May 1970 ordered the Ohio National Guard to the campus of Kent State University, where students were protesting the US incursion into Cambodia, thus widening the Vietnam conflict. Four students were shot dead by Guardsmen.

But I digress.

A must-read exhaustive history. Todd Gitlin was there.

Two issues were at the core of youth political activism in the sixties: civil rights and the Vietnam war. Come along with me down memory lane: The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “snick”)…three civil rights workers found dead in Mississippi…MLK’s March on Washington…Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)…Port Huron Statement…SNCC and SDS join forces…”The New Left”…The Digggers…”Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”…Yippie!…The Weather Underground’s “Days of Rage”…Chicago.

Lots of self-inflicted wounds.

John and Yoko are surrounded by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Source: Pat Thomas, Night Flight.

On December 31, 1967, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin founded the Youth International Party, or the Yippies. Hoffman was active in SNCC and had a reputation for theatrical political stunts, such as throwing dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and enjoying the spectacle of traders frantically grabbing the money.

Revolution for the Hell of It

Both Hoffman and Rubin knew damn well that there would be no Gallup Poll affirming majority support for the Yippies’ Revolution for the Hell of It. So they made expert use of the media to create the myth that all youth were marching in lockstep to Chicago, where the Yippies had their eyes set on protesting the 1968 Democratic Convention.

“Runaways are the backbone of the youth revolution,” Hoffman declared. “A fifteen-year-old kid who takes off from middle class American life is like an escaped slave crossing the Mason-Dixon line…It seems America has lost its children.”

The Chicago Eight. Top row: Rubin, Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis. Bottom row: Bobby Seale, Lee Weiner, John Froines, David Dellinger. Source:
Chicago and Aftermath

While the Weather Underground (formerly Weathermen) were planting bombs in Chicago buildings during its Days of Rage in October 1968, the Chicago Eight (then Seven, when Bobby Seale was severed from the others) went on trial for inciting a riot and conspiracy for what’s been judged a “police riot” during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

The meager sentences given to five of the defendants were overturned on appeal.

As the sixties closed, Abbie Hoffman was last seen onstage at Woodstock, calling attention to White Panther John Sinclair’s unfair 10 year sentence for marijuana possession. The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend was not amused.

Political activism was clearly in Hoffman’s blood. While on the run because of minor drug charges, Hoffman helped coordinate an environmental campaign to save a section of the St. Lawrence River while hiding out in Pineville, NY. Hoffman turned himself in in 1980 and did four months.

After mourning George McGovern’s 1972 election loss to Richard Nixon, Jerry Rubin decided to become a Yuppie and join a Wall Street brokerage firm. Rubin was an early investor in Apple and was reportedly worth millions when he died in 1994.

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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